Thursday, May 26, 2011

16300--A Knowledge of Heather (Ch. 5)

Happy Thursday. To help keep my own feet to the fire, I'm using Thursday as my public accountability day. That means, posting a bit of coherently creative output for you to read and feedback on every week. If I perform according to my own intent, what I put here will be available as a whole elsewhere at the same time or shortly after appearing here.

A Knowledge of Heather is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in the CITY OF MAGICK series.  Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it.  For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.
Chapter 5
     I could tell that something just didn’t strike me right about Lance Boyle from the moment we met. He was one of those clowns that made my trigger finger itch. While I waited on him to get his coat, he kept blathering about one stupid, sleazy thing after another. The more he talked, the more I thought about blowing .44 magnum holes in things.
     His place looked worse than mine without the excuse of a break-in. “Maid’s year off,” he’d said, but it was kind of obvious I was his first visitor in a while. His living room was basically built around a recliner, a coffee table and a big TV. The worn recliner looked to have a permanent Boyle-sized dent in it, the coffee table was covered with skin mags and porn movies littered the shag carpeting between the table and the TV.
     I started running bullet prices through my head. Gold, iron, silver…Slugs made from any of ‘em could all do the same basic job as lead plus something extra, but without the pesky issue of being affordable. Lead was all Boyle deserved and all he would need. Still, he might’ve been the key to all this nonsense, so my entertainment would have to wait.
     Boyle was getting his coat, eager to go with me when I gave him the story I’d told Whitney Gregg. He didn’t seem to want to waste any time, rushing through getting ready like the place was on fire. His mouth never stopped, even as he tucked his shirt in with one hand while slicking back his thinning black hair with the other. As he came back toward me I saw the skinny little mustache over his mouth turn up in some sort of perverse half-smile, so I figured he must’ve thought he’d said something funny. I gave a half-hearted chuckle to make him feel at ease, but really I’d tuned him out awhile ago. All I could see when I looked at him was a greedy opportunist, not a historian…not a treasure hunter…not an explorer…just a guy who was more concerned with a score than the oddity of a stranger showing up at his door on the wrong side of midnight to offer a ride. Worse than just impatient and greedy, there was almost an air of stupid about him. The whole deal was making me suspicious, like one of those pictures of dots you were supposed to stare at till you saw a boat or something. If you kept looking and never saw it, you had to wonder if it was there.
     “So, new guy, Jack didn’t say anything about bringing anybody else in,” Boyle said as we headed for the door. “What kinda cut are you supposed to be gettin‘?”
     “I’m not even sure how the whole thing’s supposed to work yet,” I said, trying to play dumb. It was a simple tactic, but one that usually worked for me.
     “Look, I know you ain’t been in on this from the start wit’ us,” Boyle said, “but Jacko’s gotta be givin’ you a pretty good taste to come in on this.”
     “Oh, that. It’s something, sure, but you’ll all still get the big pieces. I’m just, y’know, hired help.”
     “Good. That’s the way I like it,” he smiled. “You’re better off, really. You missed out on some stuff that…well, you don’t want to know, big guy.”
     “Pretty bad, huh?”
     “Well, if you’ve been around town awhile,” he said, “you’ve probably seen some of the crazy shit that can go on when magic starts gettin’ tossed around. It’s the kinda stuff guys like us need to just steer clear of or else you end up with a crowd around you pointing and taking pictures.”
     “Yeah, I guess,” I said. “Some stuff even ol’ Jack can’t be ready for, huh?”
     “Well, y’know, he always tries. He’s as stubborn a guy as anybody.”
     “He’d have to be to handle that wife of his, huh?”
     “Yeah,” Boyle went on with a chuckle, “she’s sure something. Don’t get me wrong, she’s hot, but she’s a handful. All I’ve ever heard from her is how she wants him to hit that big score so he can retire. That’s lovebirds for you, I guess, always either fightin’ or makin’ up. Now, me? If they‘re getting outta line and you wanna straighten ‘em out, y‘give ‘em one.”
     “Give ‘em one?” I honestly couldn’t tell if he was talking about smacking women around or--
     “Yeah, y’know,” he went on, “slip ‘em the ol’ bone. Shut’s ‘em up for a while.”
     I tried to laugh convincingly, but I couldn’t see the boat.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

16298--Underdog Hospitalized

     A folk legend, known to many as the street-hero "Underdog", was admitted to Bellvue Hospital's psychiatric ward over the weekend.  His true name still unknown, "Underdog" worked for several years as a humble, but loveable shoe-shine boy.  Tragically falling under the influence of a locally produced designer drug, a potent combination of stimulants and hallucinogens, he launched a solo campaign of defiance against the police and the phone company.  In addition to many thousands of dollars of random property damage, his drug-fueled flights of frenzy cost Ma Bell an estimated total of forty-seven phone booths over a period of three and a half years, prompting the removal of virtually all phone booths from the city.
     Taken to the hospital by his long-time girlfriend, prostitute "Sweet Polly Purebread", "Underdog" was returned to the care of his psychiatrist, Dr. Simon Bar Sinister.
     "I jus' couldn't stand t'see him do it to hisself no more, y'know?" Miss Purebread explained.  "He'd be jumpin' round  in those sweats wit' that towel round his neck and I jus' knew he was gonna get hisself killed.  He was always rhymin' and seein' animal heads on people and then beatin' 'em up.  A woman's got t'look out f'her man, y'know?"
     Given his unstable mental condition and the fact that "Underdog" has been instrumental in helping the police capture numerous criminals, all of whom he hallucinated as having various bizzare forms, the District Attorney has no plans to file any charges against him at this time.  Dr. Sinister displayed guarded optimism for his patient's outcome and has the hospital staff performing thorough health screenings on both "Underdog" and Miss Purebread.
     "The withdrawal from the drugs will take time, to be sure," the doctor said.  "Without them, he collapses into a weakened, almost paralyzed state, but I'm very confident his dependency on the chemicals he's been using can be eliminated.  Still, the drugs only served to compound the already existing conditions of paranoid schizophrenia and several deeply rooted psychoses.  His adventurous delusions and flights of heroic fancy are marked manifestations of these.  At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to find a few extra personalities bouncing around inside that poor little guy's skull, especially considering the childhood abuse he must have suffered that made him the way he is.  I've no doubt that Miss Purebread will prove to be another fascinating study.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

16293--A Knowledge of Heather (Ch. 4)

Happy Thursday. To help keep my own feet to the fire, I'm using Thursday as my public accountability day. That means, posting a bit of coherently creative output for you to read and feedback on every week. If I perform according to my own intent, what I put here will be available as a whole elsewhere at the same time or shortly after appearing here.

A Knowledge of Heather is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in the CITY OF MAGICK series.  Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it.  For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.
Chapter 4
     I passed the security guard, Fred, but didn’t greet him. No point in waking him just so he could snarl at me. A quick elevator ride got me to the eighth floor, which was good because my stomach still hadn’t settled and I needed a strong glass of milk. From down the hall, I could see that my door was a jar. What sort of a madman would steal a man’s door and leave a jar in its place? My money was on that would-be maintenance wizard, always trying to show-off or fix things that didn’t need fixing or getting pissed off over nothing…I should’ve put a hole in him when I had the chance. Then, I heard a noise from inside my darkened apartment. I couldn’t stop the smile that suddenly formed anymore than I wanted to stop the smooth reflex that had my hand clearing my trusty .44 from its holster as fast as I could think about it. The gun’s cold steel weight always felt good in my hand. It was real and solid in a world where things all too often changed at someone’s whim.

     “Freeze, punk!” I shouted as I leapt into the apartment. I had him, but the idiot went for his gun anyway. Lucky me. He never had a chance. Instead, he had two slugs in his chest before his gun cleared its holster. Hot red spurted from him and he tumbled backwards through my living room window. Too bad, I supposed, but questioning was usually tedious anyway. Eight stories later, Fred finally noticed I’d come home. I waved. Fred shook his fist and snarled something. A true pro, but he lost my attention when I noticed the body on the sidewalk start to dissolve into a red smoke. That was potential evidence totally lost to the rainy night and I still had a broken window and no door. Why couldn’t they ever dissolve before shattering my window? Well, no body meant no paperwork. I was good with that much.

     It looked like the goon had been going through my photos and files, but there was no telling which ones. He’d tossed a few things around, adding to my usual clutter. I know I hadn’t ransacked my own closet before I went out. Flaming sack of monkey crap! I definitely hadn’t left my TV face down on the floor. Some guys phone it in, others earn every bullet. Hmmm…I noticed a wet coat tossed on the back of a chair. I was still wearing my wet coat, so it was time to see what I’d won. Black coat, nicer than mine, with a tacky “Hello, my name is…“ sticker on the left breast. Curiously, the name scribbled on it read “Brick Stone” which meant…more magic. Five seconds with a marker and anyone could have an instant disguise. That explained his getting past Fred, but dead minion obviously didn’t plan on running into me. There were a bunch of blank name stickers in one pocket and a hard plastic security pass card in another. The card was jet black and had a bold, red capital “M” inside a red laurel wreath on one side. I’d seen the symbol before, probably most people in town had. It was the logo of the Monolith, one of the biggest and priciest hotels in the whole damned city. It also meant that the other end of dead guy’s leash was likely held by Morgan Locke, legitimate businessman, or the evil wizard Monday, depending on which rumors one listened to, but someone one shouldn’t end up on the wrong side of either way. Damn. What in the worlds had I stepped into this time? Whatever it was, I figured I could expect that somebody would call back.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

16286--A Knowledge of Heather (Ch. 3)

Happy Thursday. To help keep my own feet to the fire, I'm using Thursday as my public accountability day. That means, posting a bit of coherently creative output for you to read and feedback on every week. If I perform according to my own intent, what I put here will be available as a whole elsewhere at the same time or shortly after appearing here.

A Knowledge of Heather is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in the CITY OF MAGICK series.  Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it.  For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.

Chapter 3

     Heather said she didn’t know where the diamonds were, but that’s why she hired me. Jack’s notebook was a font of information regarding the whereabouts of his partners. She was kind of a jittery wreck, but Heather seemed suspicious of nearly all of them. Two of them were brothers who had died in a car crash several days ago, apparently made more odd by the fact that they had drowned first…in the car. It narrowed the suspect list, but it left me with two fewer opportunities for target practice.
     Usually racing through the streets in my dependable old Charger got me as revved as the engine. Rainy nights could be especially exhilarating and always head-clearing, forcing me to focus. By the time the Charger had carried me over to the west side and the first address, where I found a modest apartment building, I realized it was gonna take more than some fancy driving to settle my churning belly.
     The rain soaked me as I stood in my private eye trench coat and hat (both standard issue) and stared up at the face of the building. Morgan’s info put a woman by the name of Whitney Gregg in apartment 327, a short elevator ride away. On the third floor, I knocked firmly. It seemed odd that she opened the door wide and without caution, but it was refreshing in its own way and not the least of which was the view. She was five feet, eight inches of dangerous curves. Her hair was a cascade of platinum. Whitney Gregg was clearly the “After” that every “Before” wanted to be.
     “Well, hello, handsome,” she said through full, moist lips. “A little late for a delivery, isn’t it?”
     “Stone, miss. Brick Stone. There‘ve been complaints that you‘ve been distracting people by…looking so unbelievably stunning. 38-25-38, right?”
     She smiled and said, ”You’re cute, sugar. What is it you need?”
     “Words to describe those eyes…but I never was one for poetry and you‘ve probably heard it all before, anyway.”
     “Twice,” she said with a laugh that trailed off to a sigh.
     “What I have for you is a message,” I told her. “What I need, if you have some you could spare, is ginger.”
     “Aww, does the sexy messenger man have a tummy ache? Well, come on in, I suppose,” she said, brushing her hair back behind her ear. “You’re all wet and we sure wouldn’t want you to catch a chill in that drafty hallway.”
     “Thanks, you‘re sweet,” I said, my eyes scanning the apartment as she closed the door.
     “No problem, sugar,” she said, turning toward the kitchen. “Just try not to drip too much. I just had the carpet cleaned.”
     “Sure, I get it,” I said. “Nice place you have.” It wasn’t really my style, but it looked like she put a lot into decorating, probably clothes and shoes, too. Just one picture hanging that I could see. It was a nude, but arty not dirty. Classy. I noticed that she and Jack Morgan must’ve belonged to the same bizarre coffee table book club. Curses and Protections. Gemstones and Precious Metals. Let’s see…History of--
     “Thanks, I try,” she said, coming back to me with a candy jar. “Here. Try this.”
     “Ooh, crystallized ginger,” I said, taking a few pieces from the jar. “Like candy.”
     “Better,” she said. “It should settle your stomach.”
     “Oh, wonderful,” I said, sucking down a piece of the tonic herb. “So, you can’t sleep?”
     “What do you mean?”
     “Lights are on, jogging suit without jogging, hair’s perfect and the smell of hot chocolate is lingering in the air.”
     “You caught me,” she said. “I keep late hours with books and classic movies.”
     “Which tonight?” A little late hexing? High society spellbinding?
     “Eastwood marathon,” she said with a guilty smile.
     “The touchy-feely stuff?”
     “Nah, body counts, bloodshed and tough talk.”
     Did I feel my heart skip a beat? “Impressive,” I said.
     “Now, you say you have a message for me.”
     “Oh, right. The message is…from Jack Morgan.” I gauged her response and she was either a very cool killer or really didn’t know yet that he was dead. I tried to remind myself to stay objective. She couldn’t be clean just because I wanted her to be.
     “Well, what is it?” she asked, excitement suddenly showing on her face.
     I should‘ve thought further ahead. “Ummm…He’s ready to split the diamonds and wants everyone to meet at his place in an hour.”
     “Finally. Easy street, here I come!”
     “No, East 124th. You’ll probably want to drive yourself. Even those legs would have a hard time getting a cab in this weather.”
     “Whatever you say, sweet-talker,” she said, reaching out a slender hand for one of my lapels. “I’ll have to give Clint a rain check. I’m just glad Jack came to his senses and decided to play it safe. You don’t dabble, do you? You don‘t seem the type.”
     “Y’know, with magic. That‘s what they call it.”
     “Me? No, I don‘t work with magic. I shoot it.”
     “Good man,” she told me. “It’s bad news for folks like you and me.”
     “You say that,” I said, raising my index finger to a point of almost touching her jacket’s zipper just above where it threatened to reveal cleavage, “and yet your breasts are glowing.”
     “What?” she asked, looking down to her chest to see the soft purple light coming from within her jacket. Lowering her zipper a bit, Whitney exposed an iridescent, heart-shaped amethyst hanging from a slender golden chain. “Wow,” she said. “It’s never done that before.”
     “Why’s it doing it now?” I asked her.
     “Well, I’m sure I don’t know,” she said, lifting it a bit and turning it in her nimble fingers. “I found it years ago, but all I’ve ever learned about it is that it’s called the Monarch‘s Hope, supposedly cut from an even larger gem called the Monarch’s Heart.”
     “Either one supposed to do anything really special?” I asked. I was still soaking wet, but I could feel a warmth rising in my chest.
     “Like I said, this one’s never glowed before,” she explained, “and I don’t know why it is now. It could be detecting your upset stomach for all I know. I hope it’s something better than that. I always thought it was sort of a lucky charm, but I may really have something worthwhile here. There hasn’t been a documented sighting of the Monarch’s Heart in over a century, though.”
     “This happen to your crew a lot?” I asked her. “You go around finding magic stuff you don’t know much of anything about? Sounds like dangerous work.”
     “Yeah, that’s what I was saying,” she said, her tone getting defensive. “Making money takes risks. We took risks and this time we hit our jackpot and we need to just be happy with that and get out. Enough people have died over this craziness already, y’know?”
     “Well, I’m new. Just hired help.”
     “Well…Let’s just say that everybody’s got to go sometime, but nobody needs to go out like those poor bastards.”
     “The twins?”
     “Oh, you heard about that, huh? Yeah, like that and worse. They’re just the tip of the iceberg.”
     “That bad, huh? Sounds pretty grim.”
     “It’s a chance we all take, I guess, stirring things like that up that somebody saw fit to box and bury. I’ll tell you what: we can talk more about it after we finish at Jack’s, just you and me and a little private celebration. Maybe we can get a great big breakfast.”
     “I should be free,” I told her, “and I have been known to indulge my appetite.”
     “Ooh, I’m looking forward to that, Mr. Stone.”
     “Likewise,” I said. “That should give me a chance to figure out who you remind me of.” I’d told her the truth when I said I didn’t mess with magic. I didn‘t care how many jokers were trying to sling spells in this town, it all brought on too much trouble as far as I could ever see. For my money, the reliability of my .44’s solid steel and the generous use of the right bullets could solve all sorts of problems.
     As I left Whitney’s apartment, I checked my Official Private Eye Handbook (standard issue). While she was, of course, obviously attracted to me, she was still able to resist pawing me. The book said that possible reasons for her resistance were:
  1. She was being held captive in her home.
  2. She was one of the baddies (Watch your step!).
  3. She was hiding something…or
  4. The butler did it.
     Making note of that, I decided to move on to Lance Boyle, the last surviving partner. First, though, I needed to swing by my apartment for some dry private eye clothes (standard issue) and to give the ginger some time to settle my stomach.

That's it for today.  As always, thanks for your time.  Come back soon.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

16284--A Few Life Lessons

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I've read a lot of comic books in my time.  I've read my share and yours, too.  I've read more comics than Cookie Monster has eaten cookies.  That being said, I know a lot about comic books.  I also feel that I've learned a few things from them.  A lot of really important things, I learned from Superman.  I've heard more than a few people in recent years profess that they've never been able to relate to him, but that still strikes me as odd whenever I hear it.  I've never had any trouble relating to Superman, consider him a fantastic role model and view anyone who badmouths him with a suspicious eye.  Let's face it, if you have problems with Superman, then you should be checking your own proximity to the dark side.  I have a more ready understanding of people who don't like chocolate.  I still think there's something wrong with them, but I'm willing to give them a little more slack on that one.

Now, among the teachings of Superman:
  1. All living things have the right to do so.
  2. We should be able to find better ways to solve our problems than by killing.
  3. Care for others.
  4. Get some sun.
  5. The battle may be neverending, but a take a little time for yourself when you can.
  6. Being honest is good, but it's OK to keep some things to yourself.
  7. Don't sweat the small stuff.  Stand firm and let it bounce off.  Break the big stuff.
  8. Rise above minor annoyances, especially the ones that can't fly.
  9. Regular exercise will keep you fit enough to look good in tights.
  10. Being the best will make you a target.  Some people are going to take shots at you.
  11. Keep things as peaceful as you can, but recognize when it's time to kick some butt.
  12. Heat vision can clear up a lot of issues that might otherwise be problems.
  13. It doesn't take super-vision to see what's really important in life.
  14. Beware of mad scientists and glowing rocks.
See?  How hard is that to relate to?  So many good, clear things to be learned if we just pay attention.  Keep those eyes open.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

16282--Seeking the Heat

Indvidually or collectively, we remain at our best by always striving on a path to better ourselves.  This sounds as though it runs contrary to lessons of contentment and peace, but it really is possible to find a balance and blend these.  As we seek to become better, it behooves us to learn from those who have gone before us, those who have also strived to become all that they could be.  Put simply: learn from the best.

I like to use Genghis Khan as an example of a great source of learning.  Western minds have usually been conditioned to think ill of Genghis, but I've always liked to look at him more objectively.  He terrified Europe and Russia in his day, but he wouldn't have been able to do that if he wasn't the very successful man that he was.  In Mongolia, I dare say he's held in higher esteem than we hold George Washington.  Outside of Mongolia, he's primarily remembered as the deadly warlord who professed that the best things in life were to crush one's enemies, to take their goods and their horses and to hear the lamentations of their women.  Whether one likes his life advice or not, if we're going to learn from the best, then he shouldn't be quickly dismissed.  His dedication to his goals also allowed Genghis to unify the Mongol tribes that had killed his father into a fighting force that not only conquered all of China, but imposed peace and security upon the largest continuous land empire in human history.  That means, he outdid Alexander the Great and the Romans.  He even managed successful invasions of Russia without being brought down by the issues that confounded Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler.  This sounds like a highly effective manager: turning rivals into allies, bringing order and leadership to his warriors, winning new territories, establishing trade routes.  He had more than a few virtues going for him.

Learn from experience, your own and that of others.  There are lessons to be learned from all sorts of sources, even if they seem to be people you don't like.  Set aside your pride, your predjudice and any other emotional stumbling blocks.  Be objective.  Success is success whatever form it wears.  Learn from the best, whoever that may be and find your own way to being the best you can be.

Thanks for your time.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

16279--A Knowledge of Heather (Ch. 2)

Happy Thursday. To help keep my own feet to the fire, I'm using Thursday as my public accountability day. That means, posting a bit of coherently creative output for you to read and feedback on every week. If I perform according to my own intent, what I put here will be available as a whole elsewhere at the same time or shortly after appearing here.

A Knowledge of Heather is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in the CITY OF MAGICK series.  Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it.  For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.
Chapter 2

     Jack Morgan, Heather’s husband, worked with four partners at treasure hunting. On their last expedition, they uncovered a big score: diamonds. Every gem was worth plenty, but together they could finance several very comfortable lifetimes. Heather’s husband, the leader of the crew, had kept the gems secured and was going to split the take. Jack’s plans were changed when he developed a fatal hole in his head. Somebody had gotten greedy. They must not have found the gems because they were still trying to get their hands on Heather. That put her into my lap, really kicking my indigestion into high gear.
     “Poor Jack had been acting so strangely the last few days,” she said. “I’d never seen him so nervous or agitated before. After two of the others died he was just going on about some kind of curse or evil spell. He said he just wanted us to get out of town.”
     “Why didn’t you?”
     “He said there were a couple of details left to deal with,” she said, “like squaring up with the others. He was very loyal to his partners. He wasn’t going to just run out on them without giving them their share of their earnings.”
     Staring at Jack Morgan’s corpse, slumped over the oak desk in his ransacked study, I pretended to concentrate on the crime scene and thought of happier, less complicated times. I thought back to an hour ago, in my own office, when I still could’ve shot her and made it look legit. “So…the maid and the cops both have tonight off?”
     “This is where I…found him,” she said weakly, her voice cracking as tears began to stream down her soft cheeks once more.
     “And then called the cops.”
     “I…I was scared,” she said. “I heard noises. I ran. I…This isn‘t my life, Mr. Stone! You solve mysteries and fight crime! Jack and the others do research and run off on adventures! I live a normal life! I make sure the bills get paid and the house stays nice and the shopping gets done! Sometimes, I like to go out dancing and have a fun night out! None of that prepares me for dead bodies and pools of blood and running for my life! I‘m sorry if I made some mistakes!”
     “Alright, doll, take a breath. Since you claim to be new to this and you’re paying for my services, let me clue you in: statistically, when there are dead spouses laying around, live spouses make great suspects. But you invited me over, so I’ll check it out,” I told her. “Make yourself scarce.”
     “Blow,” I insisted. “Get some dry clothes. Check your hair and make-up. Do something elsewhere.”
     “Oh…I really don’t feel up to wandering the house alone right now,” she said. “Couldn’t I just stand back? I’ll stay out of your way.”
     Out of the way in another room would’ve been better. “You think you can manage to scare me up a drink?”
     “I…suppose so,” she said nervously. “What--?”
     “Surprise me.”
     I watched her sashay out of the room. Impressive. I told myself not to blame her too much for having not called the cops yet. In a town where forensics could be as iffy as the wave of a wand and some fool cursing at you could actually mean something, those of us who weren’t involved with magic had to learn to listen to our instincts. That frequently involved not running to the cops nor expecting them to come running out on a stormy night just because somebody was face down when they shouldn‘t have been. Whether it was going to do any good or not, they were gonna be involved sooner or later. For the sake of tradition, at least, they’d go through the motions and might eventually even come up with something worthwhile. I had no doubt that my best chance to get anything accomplished would be without them in the way. With Heather out of the room, I was able to begin my real work.
     It was an average, truly unremarkable study. It had windows for good lighting and a nice view, wood paneling…book-lined walls…with gaps. Coffee table…books on…quantum mechanics, Handbook of Thaumaturgy and Alchemy…string theory, history, Magic and Lore of the Third Age…hmmm…notebook. Half this stuff I wouldn’t understand and the other half I didn’t care about, but there was no doubt these folks were doing more than following an old treasure map and digging some holes. My own latest forays into literature included busty elfin girls of Summer and some magazine article offering a detailed explanation about Cleveland being a hoax. If I was ever going to be a rich guy, apparently I was going to have to change my reading choices. Who knew?
     There were also no signs of forced entry. There was a glass of brandy on the desk beside Jack’s corpse and a dark spot on the carpet beside the desk. I touched the spot. It was wet. I was repulsed for a moment, then realized that they didn’t have a dog. I sniffed my finger to find it was more brandy. Odd, but…there it was: another glass had rolled under the desk. Everything else looked clean and dry.
     Alright, so somebody supposedly friendly came over. Feet were wiped, pleasantries exchanged, drinks poured…Jack took one between the eyes. Hmmm…no powder burns and no exit wound. He fell onto the desk, plenty of blood, knocked over the brandy glass. One hand was clutched tightly. Clutching…AHA! A blood-stained key that he thought he should hold onto. Well, that was really odd…I almost hadn’t noticed that, even though his hand was still flexible, his face was more than just rigid. Some of his skin had petrified. The man’s body had been changing to stone. What’d she say? Curse? Evil spell? Who had this guy pissed off? I worked the key out of his lifeless hand and wrapped the bloody clue in a handkerchief and slipped it into my pocket. A souvenir like that could make the difference between being worth more alive than dead for a change. How comforting.
     Pulling a pen from the cup on Jack’s desk, I poked at his cheek. I might as well have been poking at a marble statue. Freaky. I moved around the desk and poked at different parts of the corpse’s torso, then each thigh. As I pushed at the body with the pen, where the body remained flesh, there was give and, where it had changed, I was met with a tapping sound against an unyielding surface. Somebody or something had done a nasty number on this guy.
     I stood tall as Heather glided back into the room.
     “I made you some lemonade,” she said, holding a glass out to me.
     “Interesting choice,” I said, taking the glass. “Thanks, doll.” How’d she know I was a lemonade man? Lucky guess?
     “A little hostess-pocus. Did you find anything?”
     Of course, commerce magic. “Yeah, you might’ve mentioned that your husband’s body was half-petrified.”
     “Wh-What?” she stammered, looking at the body with widening eyes. “It is? I didn‘t…”
     OK, so a surprise for her, then? “Yeah, the coloring looks pretty normal, but he’s about half-garden gnome,” I said. “You said he’d been acting strangely. Maybe you spotted a limp or a loss of appetite? If it was a gradual process, it probably would’ve killed him slowly, but the bullet finished him first.”
     “Do you think this was from the curse or the bullet--?”
     “I don’t work with magic,” I reminded her. “I shoot it, like somebody did Jack. I suppose it’s possible that somebody could’ve hexed a bullet to do this, but it seems a little overkilly to use it for a lethal shot at close range unless you just want to screw with forensics and slow down an investigation. Whatever happened, obviously, he stepped on some wrong toes and ended up having a crap week, that’s for sure. I’ll go through his notebook and see if he said anything more about it.”
     “Jack‘s notebook?”
     “Yeah, and I‘m going to go see if I can get some people to lie to me.”
     “Oh, you‘re leaving me alone?”
     “Do you have a butler?”
     “No, but I could hire one if you think that would help.”
     “At this time of night? Don’t trouble yourself, just lock up and stay out of the study. Drink this,” I said, giving her the lemonade. “If you haven‘t heard back from me by dawn or if you think somebody’s coming back after you, go ahead and call the police. Or maybe somebody who‘ll actually show up and do something for you.” My mind raced and my stomach churned. It was going to be a long night.

That's it for chapter two.  Look for more next week or sooner at the links above.
Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

14932-I guess we'll just have to keep beating this horse until it dies...

It was recently brought to my attention that a woman developed a graduate school project out of the use of what is politely referred to as "the N word" in America. When she made the presentation of her thesis proposal to a panel of white professors, way back in December of 2006, it was suggested that she needed to find a positive aspect of the word because it has been included in classic poems. The very notion of educators suggesting that some "positive aspect" be found to the word really made me snort a laugh. It would be easier to find positive application to "nazi" or "bitch" or "whore". Let's start up a survey to find all the nice and sunny ways to apply the word "cunt". Think of the target as a loved one, that should help, right?

We are dealing with a word and mindset that has come to target an easily identifiable group of people, kept at the lowest of social classes (during slavery, institutionally quantified as only three-fifths of a person), with a weapon whose use is to drive them even lower still in their own hearts and minds and in those of anyone within earshot. These are words that have grown from descriptive tools into weapons used to demean and insult. Unlike other words, with their fluid and complex definitions, challenging the choices that people make or don't make, the dreaded "N-word" strikes the nature of how a person was born. Whatever else you make of yourself, you're always either a star-bellied sneech or a plain-bellied sneech and that's the only way some people will ever want you to be seen. For a truly thorough oppressor, it's not enough for them to put you down. They want you to feel and believe that you deserve nothing else. It helps keep the oppressed in their place, otherwise they start getting uppity...and not in a positive way.

The closest thing I've ever found to a positive aspect for this weighty word, was that it too seemed to start as a simple descriptive: "negger" is German for "plowman". With all the immigration going on way back when, German was as popular and common as Spanish is now.  In fact, when the time came to vote on it, German ran a very close second to English as our national language (if anyone was still wondering about some of the things that slowed our entry into WWI). Anyway, since it was still your great-great-grandfather's calendar on the wall, it should take little imagination to see how in America "plowman" could be tied so readily to "black man" a couple of centuries ago. The Germans apparently didn't think that way, though, or the name "Schwarzenegger" probably wouldn't exist. Why go to the trouble of a mouthful like that if you already associated "schwarze" ("black") with "negger"? I gather that it must've been uncommon, as there were probably not a lot of black plowmen in Germany or Austria at the time. There may be one in the California governor's ancestry, but probably one of the few.

Regardless, no I'm not a user. No matter how cool and en vogue the word becomes, it still sounds like a fight starter to me. I'd give a more positive reaction to someone throwing a rock at me, really. I don't check whether a belly is starred or not. I know the rock or the word came from a sneech and it stings the same. The weapon doesn't care who's wielding it. Maybe, just maybe, one day the whole sneech population (that being "We the People") will grow beyond the divisive level of fear-anger-hate mentality, both internally and externally that seems to have turned this word into a weapon and continues to fuel its use. Then, we can work on helping each other along, instead of trying to tear each other and ourselves down. It truly is important. Until we get to the point where we're all Free, none of us is.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, May 2, 2011

14886-Give me liberty or die

Awhile back, I was talking with my wife about health care. She related to me someone's proposal to nationalize America's medical care. I suppose this is an issue that's just not going to go away. It's certainly not the first time I've heard it and I doubt it will be the last. The federal government isn't supposed to be involved in this and doesn't have a track record that shows it'll be able to run such a program to our benefit. This isn't to say it can't be done. Many countries have excellent healthcare programs that are nationalized and their people are very happy with them. They do not live in our country. We have a government that once took control of a brothel (through the IRS) and mismanaged it out of business. I can't even begin to fathom the depths of ineptness required to mismanage running a brothel. That alone should make enough of my point, since medical care is supposed to be for the benefit of those receiving care, nationalizing it isn't likely to put it into the best hands.

Our federal government has an instruction book that defines how it's supposed to work. It's called the Constitution. It's the law of the land, but it gets ignored a lot. That's not the way the system is supposed to work. You don't sit down to a board game, play around the rules that everyone's agreed to and expect it to work right. If you don't like it, find another game. Oooh, listen to me, sounding all radical and conservative simultaneously. Face it, we have a lot of rule-breaking politicians in the game. Many seem to want to get into it just to see how much they can cheat the system.

Anyway, with our government being run that way (don't act like it's a surprise), the people who keep getting into it try to meddle in ever more areas outside the set boundaries. With more meddling comes more mess (classic red tape, price increases) and less of people taking care of their own affairs. Unfortunately, people receiving "free" stuff (actually, the stuff of others that's been legislated away from them in a Marxist redistribution of wealth), is one of the great lures of a governmentally run program. Under such relentless socialistic assaults, personal responsibility is very nearly dead. Once the ball gets rolling, people just keep asking the government to do more and more for them. "Somebody should do something!" "There oughta be a law!" Personally, I feel like we have plenty of laws already. I don't get up in the morning and phone a politician to ask how to get through my day. I wouldn't even ask one to hold my wallet for me, let alone housesit. I'm sure not going to ask them to babysit.

One of the ongoing battles involves the efforts to use legislation to protect children from internet and television content. The danger of tarnished innocence is just a click away they tell us, whether it's from a remote control or a mouse. These cries always smack of hyperbole to me and make my eyes roll of their own volition. Whether the dangerous content is on your TV or on your computer, the safeguard is a simple one. Follow: it's your television and your computer. What shows up on them is up to you. You have the right to make those choices. These are rights that have been fought for and it is of criminally tragic proportion to give them up without as much of a fight. If you don't like what's on, change the channel or turn the thing off, but never never ever abdicate your authority away to a bunch of people who can't even handle the things they're already assigned to do.

Likewise, the law and the nature of Freedom saddles you with the burden of making decisions for your children. Anyone attempting to change that should make any responsible adult spew forth bile like a geyser from the depths of his enraged innards. They're your kids watching whatever on your stuff in your home. Should a bunch of strangers you wouldn't let babysit really be responsible for what you can watch? No. The solution is (write this down) that you pay attention to what your kids are doing and watching. No, you don't get to cop out and tell me you're too busy. I pay attention to what my kids are watching on TV, whether we're watching something together or not. I know what's in their video games and sometimes play them with them. They ask for permission to use the computer and are subject to having their shoulders peeked over frequently and randomly.

Blame my parents. Yes, both my parents worked in demanding careers, but I still managed to have home-cooked, balanced meals so often that I barely remember the times it didn't happen. More impressively, that low-incidence of take-out meals occurred even with great New York pizza and Chinese food being readily available.  With such dedication came parents who knew what my favorite TV shows were, what music I liked and sometimes even watched Saturday morning cartoons with me. We were also known to actually talk with each other and they encouraged me to read and...Well, the point is, be in control, don't hand it away. Exercise self-discipline and taking charge of your home will be easy.

We have all the local cable channels available and high-speed internet. External media product is piped into our home daily and the only nakedness I see on a regular basis is my wife's. How is this possible? My choice. I click and click and click, yet I don't find myself accidentally staring at hours of erotica. Neither do the kids. Trust me on this. I don't sleep much, so I know. Maybe Congress is keeping me awake with all the noise they make. If only there were some way to keep those government guys under control. There oughta be a law.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

14865-What do you mean I can't have a flying car?

I have dreams. Little black children and little white children playing together? Not those exactly. It's a fine dream, but not one of mine. Mine tend more toward dialogues with dragons, flying through Neverland, unravelling superstrings, monkeying with the relativity of time, rampant gunfire, werewolves, travelling to other worlds, the occasional nuclear explosion, conversations with strangers and reconstructing the unravelled superstring that some bozo (let's not name names) left unravelled. We don't want to leave things needlessly messy, after all.

Anyway, those are a few of the elements, bits and pieces of things that romp through my mind. Some are more random than others. You may get used to it. Some never do. Don't worry about it, I'm used to the strange looks.

Yes, it's the 21st century and I still get strange looks. I'm actually glad that the mavens of political correctness haven't gained such sway that they've gotten rid of those. Hell, if that ever happens, I'll probably think I'm starting to get through to people on a regular basis. We can't have that. Everyone's entitled to some delusions in Life, but c'mon...

As I was saying, it's the 21st century. No, I didn't just wake up and realize that, smarty. I've been aware of it for at least the last few years. What I did realize was that while I do have access to my personal communicator (Santa finally came through on that, though I'm still waiting on the phasers) and a form-fitting, comfy jumpsuit, I don't have a flying car. And before you go acting like I'm behind the times, I already checked and found that no one I know has one either. Now I started to feel a bit ripped-off. You may, too, but a friend of mine reminded me that there are lots of stupid people running loose in the world being aggravating. I think it may have been one of those days when I was yelling, "Thin the herd!" It's not that I don't like people. To the contrary, in my calmer moments, I actually like people. To that end, I also expect a lot from them. Not that I ask people for stuff, I just expect them to do better at living up to their potential. My friends tell me I give the general populace too much credit. If this is true and there are vast numbers of stupid people all around us (certainly none of them being the very bright readers with me now) that we others must endure sharing the days with, then it's good that we don't have flying cars. Too many drivers have a hard enough time with two dimensions, they don't need to deal with a third, especially when it increases the number of people they can take down with them.

Let's face facts, we've got a long way to go before we catch up with our wildest dreams. Truly, we've probably got even further to go before we're ready as people to arrive at our wildest dreams. As long as we're willing to keep driving, I trust that we'll gradually figure out the right direction. Call me an optimist, but part of me even believes that we'll be able to find that out working together.

Thanks for your time.  Even though we keep finding ways to save it, we never seem to have enough.  It remains fleeting and precious and we're always in a hurry.  The only way we ever seem to find any to spare is less.  Sit.  Breathe.