Sunday, November 27, 2011

16483--Fixing Congress Should be as Easy as Fixing a Cat

Yet so much more satisfying.  Who knows?  Maybe a few simple surgical procedures could produce some tolerable politicians.  Snip-snip and...Oh, there was that idea I had for near-death experiences.  The people you hear about coming back from those usually have such nice things to say about it and seem like they really want to do good things.  Imagine gathering a bunch of candidates before a debate and just electric shock 'em right off to the tunnel with the bright light.  Then, bring them back and see how they answer questions.  I know, some of them might not survive resuscitation, but that's OK.  It's just a politician.  Bring them back or leave them on the table...It's a politician.  Who cares?  They're as expendable as lawyers.  The subplot of the whole system is about how replaceable they are even though they pretend to have differences from each other.

Do I ask too much from them?  I only want them to do the jobs they're supposed to do and then go away.  I don't push them to paint outside their clearly defined lines and I certainly don't enable them, like some people do, but I'm not going to start naming names and pointing fingers.  That won't get us anywhere, will it?  What I'm talking about here, among other things, is accountability.

Hey, it's not just me.  It's my understanding that Warren Buffett, in a recent interview with CNBC, went off on Congress and the debt ceiling.  He suggested passing a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of  GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.  That would certainly get their attention.  Personally, I favor a term limit of one, figuring that political types seem to do best with as little temptation as possible.  Buffett's version is a little less radical and dangles a behavior control, so it has its own merits.  The will of We the People would just have choose.  I think a lot of people have lost confidence in how influential we can be in deciding how our lives are run.  "They" still don't outnumber "we" and can really only push us around as much as we let them.

Honestly, with our access to computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. and the access all that wondrous technology gives us to each other, coordinated public pressure should be coming down on elected paper pushers with the regularity of sunshine.  Politicians aren't some exalted class.  They're public servants hired to perform administrative tasks that virtually anyone can do.  We should make a habit of reminding them just how not special and utterly replaceable they are.  They should also be reminded through some common sense policy changes, including:

  • No Tenure / No Pension.  A Congressman collects a salary while in officeand receives no pay when they are out of office.
  • Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.  All monies in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.  All future funds flow into the Social Security system,and Congress participates with the American people.  It may not be used for any other purpose.  Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all other Americans do.  In fact, just get rid of Social Security and send the money we work for into individual retirement accounts that Congress can't even touch.  They've more than proven they can't handle money responsibly.  If we're going to put the leash to them, let's not half-ass it.
  • Congress will no longer vote themselves pay raises.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  • Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the rest of the American people.
  • Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.  Maybe that would put the brakes on the creation of an endless stream of unconstitutional "laws".
  • All contracts with past and present Congressmen become void effective 1/1/12.  The American people haven't made contracts with Congressmen.  Congressmen have abused their positions to made "sweetheart deals" for themselves. 

Serving in Congress is a public service, never meant to be a career.  The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators.  Ours should serve their time, then go home and back to work.  If each person contacted a minimum of twenty people then it would only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message.  Like old fish, the stink on Congress should make it obvious that it is long past time for us to do something about it.

Any other fixes you'd like to see imposed upon Congress or other elected workers?  Share with the class.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

16480--Similarities to Persons Living or Dead (Ch. 10)

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.
Similarities to Persons Living or Dead 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 10

Harmony was right when she said that Corvus needed further scrutiny. What she needed, though was a break from looking over her shoulder and maybe even some sleep if she could get it. I took Harmony back to my apartment. Letting Berlin babysit her had to be better than following me onto unknown turf.

My new assistant was adjusting my recently acquired and emptied treasure box on a small pedestal on the far side of the living room. So far, though, the box had seemed to be more of a treasure than the curious contents.

“What happened in here?” I asked as Harmony and I took off our private eye hats and peeled off our private eye trench coats (all standard issue, of course).

“She’s been cleaning, Brick,” Harmony said. “Remember? We talked about this.”

“I don’t think I like it,” I sneered. “It looks…unnatural.”

“Do you have any more souvenirs, Brick?” Jonni asked.

“Souvenirs?” I parroted. “Is that what you think that box is? That thing’s been nothing but a pain in my ass for days. What makes you think I want to keep it around?” I was reminded of the warm plastic square I had in my pocket. My hand drifted there to make sure it was still where I’d put it. It was, which meant it still hadn’t incinerated me and I still had to figure out what to do with it. I sighed. “We got the…whatever it is out of it and we don’t need the stupid box anymore.”

“It’s like a trophy from your adventures,” she said. “It makes a nice decoration. If you have some others, I can rework the whole living room around them. Doesn’t that sound great?”

“She wants a ‘yes’, doesn’t she?” I asked Harmony.

“Brick Stone,” Harmony scowled, “you be nice. She’s trying hard for you.”

“She’s trying alright,” I said. “She’s very trying.”

“Do you think this would look better closed or open?” Jonni asked, stepping up to the leather-trimmed box and quickly opening its lid. “Wha--?”

“I think it would look better out in the alley,” I said. “If there’s anything here that I’ve had more than a week, it’s because it got pulled out of the remains of the war zone that my last apartment turned into. Thanks for the happy memory, though.”

“What’s the matter, Jonni?” Harmony asked, starting to walk toward her.

I was just starting to notice that she was standing still and staring into the box, almost frozen and slack-jawed. She had a more puzzled look than usual on her face.

“I thought you said that this thing was empty,” Jonni said, “and your little card was the only thing--”

“What’re you talking about?” I asked. “Are you saying there’s something else in there? No way! It was empty!”

“Let me see,” Harmony said, craning her neck to see past the box lid as she moved around the furniture.

“Is that a…cooler?” Harmony asked.

“Looks like,” Jonni said, reaching out a hand to it. Before I could say anything to stop her, she lifted the lid on the plastic cooler to find, “It’s full of flats of eggs.”

Green eggs,” Harmony said.

“Well, there’s something you don’t see everyday,” Jonni said. “You know, unless you’re Dr. Seuss.”

“Sounds like something I don’t need to see any day,” I said, walking their way.

“Hand me that glass, would you please?” Jonni asked Harmony as the curious blonde picked up an egg about the shade of broccoli.

Harmony grabbed the tumbler from my squarish dining table behind them and took a couple of hurried steps to hold it out to Jonni. Jonni promptly cracked the eggshell on the rim of the glass and opened the egg over it. The contents of the shell flowed down from her hand as normally as I could’ve expected from any normal egg. In the case of the egg dropping into the glass before us, though, the "white" was mint green and the yolk was deep forest green.

“Wow,” Harmony said, taking a step back with her eyes fixed on the glass.

“This does not bode well,” I said, pulling the idiot plastic card from my pocket. “Where’d those things come from?” I asked it.

>Where’d what come from?

“The green eggs,” I said.

>What green eggs?

I should’ve known better. I honestly didn’t know why I had bothered.

“Oooh, I have got to cook some of these up!” Jonni said with a sudden burst of excitement. She grabbed at the sides of the cooler and lifted it out of the box, looking to me and asking, “Do you have any ham?”

“OK, I don’t think I like where this is going,” I told her, but apparently I was the only one still listening to me. The box lid fell shut again, jostled by Jonni as she dragged the cooler out of the box.

“I’ll be in the kitchen!” Jonni called out as she turned and hurried off.

“I am not eating that!” Confident in my practiced skills of observation, I was certain I’d have noticed the presence of a cooler that nearly filled the box. It wasn’t in there before.

I didn’t notice until too late that Harmony had set the glass back on the table and turned back to the box. She was opening it again before I could ask, “What the Hell?

“Oh, Brick, look,” Harmony said with awe, reaching in and gently picking up what looked like a small spice rack.

“That’s not looking,” I said. “That’s touching. When did you lose your mind?”

“Aren’t they beautiful?” she asked, whispering as she gazed at the several small vials of a faintly glowing turquoise liquid, each stopped by a cork.

“Beautiful? What is it?” I asked. “Never mind. Set it down.” I looked back into the box. Thankfully, there was nothing el…No, there was a small piece of paper. I picked it up and read, “Love Potion: Do not use in combination with prescription medications, country music, or peanut butter."

“Really?” Harmony asked. “Oh, lord! It smells awful!”

“Wha--“ I looked to see that she had removed one of the corks as a noxious odor, similar to burning hog fat, assaulted my nose. “Oh, my--Why did you open it?” I asked as the bottle started to glow brighter, bubble and shake. “Never mind!” I said, taking the vial from her and putting it back in its space on the rack. I quickly picked up the whole rack, put it back into the box and slammed the lid shut. We took a couple of steps back as the box shuddered. Then, I noticed the smell was gone and all was quiet. I could smell eggs cooking in what had been alleged to be my kitchen.

Feeling that the box seemed safe enough to approach, I considered dropping it out my window. Instead, I lifted the lid to see what had happened. For just a second, it felt almost like I was experiencing that moment when one cautiously lifts the seat of a gurgling toilet to see if it was going to overflow.

“Well?" Harmony asked.

“Weird," I said, fully lifting the lid. “It looks like a map."  I had joined the others in Crazytown, obviously. Maybe the map could help me find my way back.

“Is that leather?" Harmony asked, feeling the map as I picked it up to examine.

“Yeah, it’s the skin from something alright,” I said. “Where do you suppose…Ausparlous is?”

“Never heard of it,” she said, pointing at the lower right corner of the map, “but it looks like G.X. Horace managed to find it in 1937.”

“Indeed,” I said, continuing to look over the map of the unknown land. A large arrow pointed upward on the right side of the map, reading "Great Western Shaft to the Upper World." “Hmm…underground, maybe,” I said, handing Harmony the three-foot by two-foot piece of leather. I noticed a ball in the box. I picked up a metal sphere, about the size of a softball, perfectly round and seamless. I wasn’t sure what the metal was, but the surface was smooth, a little cool and had a slight purple tint. From inside, I could hear a rattling sound, as if something smaller was contained within the hollow sphere.

“Hollow?” Harmony asked.

“Sounds like,” I said. “Aha! Another note.” Within the crate was a small piece of wrinkled note paper. Scrawled in faded black ink, it appeared to be part of someone's notes: "...has proven resistant to the steam drill, as well. I held it against the thing until it broke down, but not a scratch is upon it. Tomorrow, must try the hydraulic press... Can any force reveal the contents?"

“Oooh,” Harmony said, grabbing at the metal ball and shaking it. “Spooky weird.”

“We got lucky,“ I said as I closed the box. “There’s obviously a lot more to this box than we thought.”

“Listen to you. You just always expect the worst!“ Harmony said, flipping the box lid back open. “Nothing bad has happ--”

I tried to stop her, but even though I pulled her away from the box, she still managed to get the lid open. I pulled her back just as a hail of arrows came flying out of the box and up into the ceiling. We could hear the sounds of battle--shouting and screaming and crashing metal--from inside the box.

“OK,” Harmony said, “I stand corrected. Does that sound like it’s getting louder to you, Brick?”

“Seriously?” I asked, peeking over the edge of the box top. I actually wasn‘t surprised when I seemed to be looking down on an active battlefield rather than seeing the interior of an empty box. “Like we haven’t been shot at enough today?”

“Sorry,” Harmony said.

I side-stepped around the box and reached out to knock the lid shut. Then, grabbing a blanket from the couch, I opened it and threw it over the box. “No more playing with the box,” I said. “Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Harmony said softly.

Jonni returned from the kitchen with a plate and a fork, already eating as she hurried into a seat at the dining table.

“Berlin! No more messing with the box,” I said. She looked at me curiously, one of her cheeks puffed with food as she chewed. I pointed up at the ceiling. She looked up at the cluster of arrows.

“Got it, boss,” she said, resuming her chewing. “These are great, by the way. Oh, you’re out of ham.”

“Thanks for the update,” I said. “Can we get back to work?”

“Sure,” Jonni said. “Say, where’d you disappear to before?”

“I think I caught a timeslip when some insistent acquaintances magicked me away for a pointless meeting,” I explained. “They were actually interested in this stupid box.”

“Somebody else is after our eggs?” Jonni asked. “We can’t just let them have them! They‘re ours!”

“I’m not sure they knew about the eggs,” I told her. “From my experience, they’re much heartier eaters than that.”

“Who are these people?” she asked.

“They wouldn’t give their names,“ I said. “They were rakaraka…or something.”


“A talking tiger-guy, well, two this time,” I explained.

“A what?” Harmony asked.

“You heard me. He was in a red silk kimono and smoking a pipe.”

“A rakshasa? Two rakshasas? You should stay away from those, Brick,” Jonni insisted. “They’re deadly. You have to know that.”

“You’re telling me? You ever seen them eat?”

“They’re cunning and evil and really tough to kill.”

“Well, so far, they’ve only tried to talk me to death,” I told them. “Oh, and they were with this dwarf wizard, Tillmaren.”

Tillmaren? They were with Tillmaren?” Jonni asked, getting agitated again. “You met Tillmaren?

“Yeah,” I said. “You know him? He‘s somebody special?”

“Who?” Jonni asked. “Just kidding. No,” she said, “I don’t know him, but I’ve heard of him. He‘s a powerful wizard.”

“And they want the box,” Harmony said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess they do.”

“With Tillmaren involved, boss,“ Jonni said, “you may want to consider giving them what they want.”

“I’ll make a note,” I said. “It goes on the back burner for now, though. I’ve got some other bushes to beat first. Make sure she gets some rest.”

“So thoughtful,” Jonni said with an admiring smile. “A good man with such a great heart.”


“Whatever you say, boss,” Jonni said, continuing to work on her plate of green eggs. “Don’t forget the ham.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

16473--Similarities to Persons Living or Dead (Ch. 9)

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.Similarities to Persons Living or Dead 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 9
Harmony and I drove from my office to the shop of Declan Forester. I introduced her to Forester. While the little hermit was distracted, I snuck into his bathroom. Happily relieved, I picked up my order of custom bullets he’d made for me. Of course, I had to let him take a few extra minutes to regale me with the intricacies of his creation of the bullets, inlaying the different metals upon each other in their delicate patterns and the blessings and spells. A lot of it was very fine, detail work that looked like tiny magic symbols to me, but it seemed like a good idea considering we might be dealing with undead stalkers.

From Forester’s, it was a short trip to Richard Taylor’s so we could shake him down and see what fell out. Like in most homicides, Sheila Taylor’s spouse was a primary suspect, of course, but the police cleared him. They bought his alibi, but I knew how lazy the local lawdogs could be. I was going to see how well Taylor’s alibi held up under the pressure of actual scrutiny. Either way, it had the possibility to lead somewhere and if he got out of line, I could always blow a hole in him.

Of course, if I disregarded the fact that Alex Gold was supposed to be dead, focusing on the fact that he’d been seen as recently as a week ago, he would’ve made a great suspect in Sheila Taylor’s murder, too. He was looking lively enough in the photo of him and Sheila, then she and the photographer ended up dead. There were lots of questions that needed answering. Something suspicious was definitely afoot. I let Harmony knock on the front door of the townhouse. It was a very sad-faced man who answered. He was unshaven and his hair was uncombed. His clothes looked like they’d been slept in and I was sure he could’ve smelled better.

“Richard Taylor?” I asked.


“My name is Brick Stone. This is Harmony Storm. We’re sorry we have to bother you, but we have some follow-up questions--”

“--about Sheila. Of course, come on in,” he said, moving aside to let us in. “I want to help any way I can. I want her killer found.”

“We understand,” Harmony said as we followed him into the living room. “Losing a loved one like that…It’s just so terrible.”

“Please, sit,” he offered, guiding us to the couch and then sitting across the coffee table from us in one of the expensive-looking chairs. “Excuse the boxes. They’re all over. I was just…putting away some of…Sheila’s things.”

“That must be hard for you,” Harmony said. “The two of you obviously made a beautiful home here.”

“Thanks,” he said, pouring himself more wine. “I’d offer you a drink, but it‘s early and you‘re working.”

In fact, there wasn’t anything I’d seen in the place that made it look like they had gone the discount route on decorating, certainly not the Persian rug or the fancy French chairs or the expensive collectibles. Even the wine glass Taylor was using to embalm himself looked like it was part of an expensive set. “No problem. I plan to be shooting people soon.”

“I’m not sure I follow. Oh, my goodness! Are you following some dangerous lead?”

“Possibly,” I told him, “but I just always plan on doing some shooting. Making room for some action in my daily schedule keeps the blood flowing--mine, at least, and sometimes other people‘s, too.”

“I don’t mean to get off-track, but I’ve never seen a wine glass like that before. Is that part of a set?” Harmony asked.

“It’s unique, actually,” Taylor said, holding it up. “It’s hand-carved from a single piece of bone, polished to be smooth as glass and there’s a ring of tiny, square-cut onyxes around the top of the stem.”

“It’s beautiful,” Harmony said. “It looks so elegant.”

“I know,” he said. “It was Sheila’s. She used to drink from it every day.”

“So you can drink to remember and forget at the same time,” I said. “Convenient. Where‘d she find it?”

“I really don’t know. Antique shop?” He took a sip and said, “I like port, but her favorite drink was this old spice wine. It was Roman, I think. I don’t know how she managed to find the stuff, but she loved it. It smelled like flowers and honey.”

“Sweet,” I said, looking around the room. “You collect coins, too?”

“What? Oh, no,” Taylor said, realizing I had noticed the different books on the coffee table and in one of the open boxes nearby. “Those were Sheila’s books. She didn’t actually start a collection, just did research a long time ago. She had a few different hobbies, liked to collect things.”

“That must make this all the more difficult for you,” Harmony said softly. “How long were you two married?”

“Three years,” he said sadly. “Three wonderful years. I swear she had to have been the funniest woman I‘ve ever known.”

“And yet, in spite of all the joy and laughter, you hired Lew Manning to follow her,” I said. “What made you think she was picking up outside action?”

“Well, just odd behavior, I guess,” he said. “She didn’t seem as happy as usual, very stressed and tense. She seemed preoccupied, started making mistakes and forgetting things. There were strange phone calls and she started getting more secretive about how she was spending her time. I got concerned, at first, and then suspicious…afraid that…Well, none of that seems to matter so much anymore…now that she’s gone.”

“Believe me, it ain’t over yet,” I told him. “Manning’s dead, too, and we’re trying to figure all this out before someone else ends up in the morgue.”

“You think his death had something to do with Sheila? How?”

“That’s part of what we’re working on figuring out,” I said. “Whatever was going on, though, my instincts give me a pretty strong feeling that it was more than just some cheap affair.”

“You mean, my Sheila wasn’t cheating on me?” he asked with a glimmer of confusion and wide-eyed optimism.

“Well, I can’t really rule it out yet,” I told him. “The pictures of her at the fancy hotel sure don’t help.”

“The hotel? You mean, the Ambassador?” he asked. “We have a special deal with them. We keep rooms rented there for visiting performers and such.”

“Had any of your VIPs in town in the last couple of weeks?” I asked.

“Well, yeah,” Taylor said. “We had five or six in the last month.”

“And Alex Gold was among them?”

“I don’t know who that is.”

“The pictures you hired Manning to take put them together,” I said, “and if she wasn’t stepping out on you, I’m betting that whatever was going on, there was also a lot of money involved.”

“Money? How do you mean?”

“What did Sheila do with her days and nights?” Harmony asked. “I mean, the parts you knew about. Did she work?”

“With me,” Taylor said. “We own…I own The Looking Glass. Sheila came in a couple of years back and started doing the books.”

“Aha! So, suddenly you were losing money! She was cooking the books and feathering a love nest with some other slob! You couldn’t take it when you found out, so you iced ‘em both!”

“Uh…What? No. No!” he insisted. “Actually, its one of the busiest restaurant nightclubs in The City. It’s very successful and only seemed to get better once Sheila left her old job and we started working together. I’ve never seen better kept accounting records than hers. She was positively meticulous. I mean, look at this place. Try to ignore the boxes and my stumbling through here in a half-lit, grieving stupor. She was so great. I don‘t think…the club would be where it is today without her. I wouldn‘t be what I am…I don‘t know how I…”

I could see he was about to start blubbering again. That was about all I could handle of that touchy-feely nonsense. I could feel my hand reaching for my gun when I asked, “Hey, what was her old job? Where was she working before?”

“She was at…at…Corvus,” he said. “She was in their accounting department.”

“Corvus. Corvus,” I said, prodding at my brain. “That sounds familiar.”

“Don’t they do a bunch of weird sciencey stuff?” Harmony asked.

“That’s it!” I remembered. “They isolated the shaving cream molecule!”

“Oh, yeah,” Harmony said. “There was a thing on the news. They just moved that guy out to Wardenclyffe with the mad scientists.”

“Umm…I don’t watch the news much,” Taylor said. “Really, I was never sure what they did, but I always got the impression that they did good things.”

“Why?” Harmony asked.

“Well, because they said they did, I guess.”

“Sound business theory,” I said. “Doing good by using your resources to tell people you’re doing good.”

What?” Harmony asked me.

“It’s like giving somebody money for food,” I explained. “You may doubt that it’s actually going for food, but if you can convince yourself that it is, then you feel better about it than if you believe it’s for booze and drugs. That makes you feel better about giving your support.”

“So people feel better about dealing with a company they believe does good things,” Harmony said. “So even if they spent all their money telling people about the good things they did, they’d be doing good just because they told people about it.”

“Wouldn’t that mean that they’d also be doing a public service by keeping any bad stuff they did covered up?”

“Sure,” I said. “A big company doing big things is gonna have big secrets. If they’ve got big secrets, it means they’d go to great lengths to keep them. Someone in accounting could‘ve found the clues of a trail that others might not.” And if I’d been able to find my copy of the Official Private Eye Handbook (standard issue), I could’ve shown them some blurb about how bean counters rather than cops brought down Al Capone.

“Sounds like Corvus could stand a closer look,” Harmony said.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

16466--Similarities to Persons Living or Dead (Ch. 8)

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.Similarities to Persons Living or Dead 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 8

The afternoon sun was shining down, hot and bright. The warm Bermuda sands were thick with bikini-clad tanned flesh, lounging in the heat. I was on a yacht, about fifty yards offshore, lounging on one of the deck chairs. A platinum blonde came up from below deck in a bikini I could almost see through and wasn’t covering very much anyway. Her long, silky hair danced in the warm breeze. Her body was a dizzying balance of fitness and curves. As she walked closer, her hips snaking from side to side with each step, I noticed she had a pitcher of some fruity drink in one hand and two bottles of sun tan lotion in the other. I could see I was going to need a whole bottle of lotion just for those legs. Then, she smiled and I didn’t notice anything else at all…until a door slammed.

I was awake. As I sat up slowly and lifted my private eye hat (standard issue) off my eyes, I saw that I was in my office. Damn. I realized the fingers of my left hand were tangled up in a slender gold chain. I looked in my hand and saw I was holding an amethyst heart. Whitney’s amethyst. Wasn’t I just dreaming about--?

“I’m back, Brick,” Jonni sang out with what I was coming to realize was a characteristic and possibly disturbing perkiness.

“And with such an entrance,” Harmony said.

“Swell,” I said. “Did I miss anything?”

“All quiet here,” Harmony said.

In front of me on my desk, the delicate pinging sounded again as the chatty plastic prize tried to get my attention. I looked at the gray screen.

“Is it saying something, Brick?” Harmony asked.

>Dream has been successfully recorded.

>Ready for replay in user-selectable format, described in text or archived for later retrieval.

“Oooh, I wanna see,” Jonni said excitedly, hurrying around my desk.

“You’re too young,” I said. “We’ll just archive that until I can figure out how to erase stuff.”

“Oh, poop!” Jonni said indignantly. “You been jewelry shopping? Or is that a clue? Looks fancy. Is it old and pricey?”

“Don’t worry about it,“ I said, shoving the pendant back into my shirt pocket.

“You do know that it’s glowi--”

“Didn’t I send you out for information?”

“Aye-aye, sir,” Jonni said. “Information I‘ve got.”

“Hallelujah. Spill it.”

“Well, we were hitting dead ends. We’ve still got nothing on SOC yet and it was looking pretty bleak with the pictures, too,“ she said, handing me a week-old newspaper, “until I found this one.”

“You found a newspaper in a newspaper building?” Harmony asked.

“How proud your parents must be,” I said.

“Just look at the picture on page 6, Grumpy,” Jonni said. “Her name is Sheila Taylor and she was found dead in her townhouse just over a week ago.”

“Ironic,” I said.

“How so?” Jonni asked.

“These photos of her,” I said. “These two were meeting in a cemetery.”

“Oooh, spooky,” Jonni said.

“So Mr. Taylor was the client that hired Lew for his last case,” Harmony began, “and Sheila Taylor was the wife he was following?”

“Well, she is in these photos with a guy we’ll assume wasn’t the client and, thus, not Mr. Taylor,” I said. “You find anything on him?”

“Sure did,” Jonni said, grabbing a doughnut. “His name’s Alex Gold.”

“Anything more than a name?” Harmony asked.

“That’s the funny part,” Jonni said.

“Make me laugh, blondie,” I told her.

He’s dead, too.”

“OK, so Mrs. Taylor starts sneaking out on Mr. Taylor to spend time with Mr. Gold,” I said. “Mr. Taylor gets suspicious and gets Lew Manning to follow her around and get pictures. Mr. Taylor finds out what his Mrs. is up to and sends her and her friend off to wherever people go when they’re done with their bodies. Now Mr. is hunting Harmony down to recover any evidence that might link him to the whole sordid affair. Another mystery solved and the crowd goes freaking wild.”

“Except that there have been multiple people chasing me, Brick,” Harmony said. “It’s been days and I’m not sure if he’s even one of them. It looks like they have something to do with these SOC cards, though.”

“Well, maybe he’s part of a coven or something that’s getting messages through the cards,” I said. “There’s something supernatural going on when they’re going to keep coming at us through the hail of bullets, which reminds me: I’ve got to pick up a new order of bullets. If the husband’s still loose and looking for our Miss Storm, then we’ll assume the police didn’t see fit to detain him in connection with his wife’s demise. Maybe if we could check out Gold’s body, we could get something more on him. Where’d they find him, Jonni? How’d he die?”

“In a big, loud, fiery car wreck…three years ago,” Jonni told us.

“Yet he’s alive in pictures taken this month,” I said. “So, either those are fake, his death was faked, or someone was after some benefit derived from Gold still being above ground and hanging with Mrs. Taylor.”

“Which could also be a reanimation or an actor,” Harmony said.

“Notice how I‘m not laughing,” I said. “I remember this guy I had to track down once who used a magical disguise. It was one of those fake glasses, rubber nose and mustache things…but enchanted. It was the…Mantle of Proteus!”

“You think this might be that?” Harmony asked.

“Nah, it was unique as far as I know,” I said. “I was just reminding myself of how little amusement I usually get from magic. This is obviously going to take a little extra time. And apparently some leg work. And probably more bullets.”

“Sorry, boss,” Jonni said. “I didn’t mean to make things more complicated.”

“Story of my life. Excuse me a moment, ladies. I need to visit the euphemism. I‘ll try to resist the urge to flush this thing and be right back.” I slid the plastic square into my pocket as I stood, wondering if it might not put me out of my misery quickly. I tossed my private eye hat (standard issue) and private eye trench coat (standard issue) onto my desk and headed for the bathroom door in the corner of the room.

As I closed the door behind myself and reflexively reached for the light switch, I realized that the switch wasn’t where my hand usually found it. Or maybe it was as I slowly came to realize that the dimly lit room I was in wasn’t my bathroom, which meant that I was the one out of place. I saw a shelf a few feet away with a curious-looking statue on it. Walking toward it, I saw that it was three odd little men, carved from stone and squatting back-to-back-to-back. It didn’t look too comfy and…each one had a third eye in its forehead. There was a note taped to the shelf that read: Store for further study. Next to the statue were a lot of other random items that I guessed fell into the same category. There was a lead fountain pen, a crystal rabbit, an open pocket watch that was running backwards--

“We meet again, Mr. Stone,” a gravelly voice said from behind me.

I turned to see what appeared to be a tiger, walking upright and wearing a silk robe. I‘d been on this ride before. “How’ve you been, Tony? Still keeping the laughter in the slaughterhouse?” I asked the talking, pipe-smoking tiger.

“Tip-top, old chap. Flattered that you remember me.”

“You’re tough to forget, Tony.”

“To be sure,” he said. “I wanted you to meet some of my associates in the Cult--”

“--That Collects Weird Stuff, so you brought me to your…storeroom. I think I get it.”

“Admittedly, inauspicious,” Tony said, “but the Hall of Sacred Mysteries is reserved for devotees of our faith.”

“Like your friend there,” I said, giving a nod to the black-robed tiger behind him.

“Indeed. She is another of my tribe,” Tony said, “and Tillmaren,” he continued, drawing my attention to the dwarf at my knee who was holding a gnarled wooden staff that stood just taller than my waist.

“Good day, Mr. Stone,” the bearded dwarf said, bowing formally in his white and red robe. “I am the exalted wizard Tillmaren. If you’ve something for me to sign, I’ll give you an autograph at half-price, but do try to restrain yourself from fawning. It’s terribly undignified and quickly grows tiresome.”

“I…left my autograph book in my coat,” I said. “Darn. Next time.”

“Next time it will be full price,” Tillmaren warned.

“Mr. Stone,” Tony said, “you’ve opened the box.”

“Yeah, how--?”

“Tillmaren’s spells--”

“Divination is but a trifle for the great Tillmaren!” the dwarf proclaimed.

“Open,” Tony said, “it was traceable.”

“Right,” I said. “Alarms went off and you pulled me in. Swell. I hate to burst your bubble, but all that was in it was this.” I pulled the plastic square from my pocket and held it up to show them. It began to ping again.

>No, please!

>Don’t leave me here!

>Don’t leave me with them!

>Anywhere but here!

Well, how about that? I wasn‘t even going to try to guess. “Usually, when I get a lame prize out of a box, there’s at least cereal,“ I told them.

“You got that from the box?” the second tiger asked with a slightly higher gravelly voice than Tony.

“Right,” I responded.

“That’s all that came from it? Nothing else?” Tillmaren asked. “No casualties?”

“Hard to believe, I know,” I said. “I had to take a second look, too.” They started to talk in hushed tones amongst themselves. “I haven’t quite figured out what to make of it yet,” I offered. “It hasn’t shown me what makes it as dangerous as it’s supposed to be yet.” The mumbling grew more agitated and arms were waved. I saw Tony’s eyes glance my way.

I wasn’t sure I hadn’t overplayed my hand. Having sprung the secret surprise from the elusive treasure box, and shown them that I had it on me, they could have easily decided that I’d outlived my usefulness. They were probably debating what to do with the little plastic card, how many pieces to chop me into and whether I‘d go best with white or red wine.

“Mr. Stone,” Tony said, “you should go now.”

Tillmaren tapped the floor with his staff and a door began to creak open in what had appeared to be a dark wall. A bit of light showed through from beyond, displaying the outline of my exit.

“That’s it, huh?” I asked, watching the threesome extremely carefully.

“We’ll be in touch,” Tony said. “We have…issues of import to consider.”

“OK, then,” I said, heading for the door. “Enjoy your weird stuff. Thanks for having me over.” Stepping through the door, I really didn’t know where I was heading, but I figured it had to be a step up.

The door closed behind me as I stepped back into my office. Harmony was sitting at the newly revealed desk and suddenly noticed that I had returned. It looked like she had opened up a box of my old case files and was reading through a stack of them. “A little light reading?”

“Brick!” she blurted my name sharply, jumping a little bit in the chair. She was obviously startled. Then, I noticed her fidgeting with the pen in her hand.

“What’re you doing?” I asked, walking toward the desk for a closer look. “You find something interesting?”

“I-I…Well, I…”


“I’m sorry,” she said, hanging her head. “I ran out of paper clips.”

“What’re you talking about?” I asked her, my eyes scanning the desk top. “There’s a pile right there. It looks like there are boxes of them.”

She grabbed at the little pile of twisted steel bits and lifted a bunch of them off the desk high enough to show me that they had been chained together. “You were gone and Jonni left and I was starting to get anxious waiting and…and…I started chaining them.”

“Till you ran out.”

“Yeah,” she said, “and then I had to find something else.”

“Did you consider unchaining them, perhaps?” I asked.

“That’s not the way it works, Brick,” she said, giving me a look that said I clearly didn’t understand the situation. “I started looking for things to read and I was trying really hard not to start tearing the paper into little pieces--”

“Thanks,” I said. “I remember the diner.”

“--but I kept noticing…the holes…”

“Holes?” I asked, looking at the page in front of her where I saw what she had been writing or, more accurately, scribbling. The page was still readable, but there was definitely a lot more ink on it than there was ever intended to be.

“In the letters,” she explained. “Next thing I knew, I had a pen and I was filling in all the holes. Every ‘O’, ‘P’, ‘R’--”

“I get it. I get it,” I assured her. “You OK?”

“Now, I guess. Where’ve you been?” she asked.

“I’m not sure how to answer that,” I said. “Somebody wanted a meeting.”

“You disappeared,” she said, walking toward me.

“Only for a few minutes.”

“No, you disappeared. I checked the bathroom.”

“Say, where’s Berlin?”

“In Germany,” she said. “Is that important?”

“Only to residents, I’d imagine. I meant, my new secretary. Where is she?”

“Oh, she went on to get started on your apartment,” Harmony said. “You’ve been gone over an hour. I was starting to get worried.”

“I must’ve hit a timeslip,” I said, “and I still need to pee.”


“Yeah, I’m not even trying this door again today,” I said. “It’s obviously not working right. I’ll wait for the next one.”

“OK,” Harmony said. “What’s our next move?”

“We go make some other people worry,” I told her. I tapped at the plastic square. It pinged back at me.

>Is it safe?

“Is it ever?” I asked it back. “File a reminder: we’re going to have a talk later.”

I shoved it back in my pocket as Harmony and I went for our hats and coats.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

16459--Similarities to Persons Living or Dead (Ch. 7)

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.
Similarities to Persons Living or Dead 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 7

We went back to my office. At least, I thought it was the right building. The office door did have my name on it, which meant we‘d managed to find the right floor for the day. I set my mystery box on the floor and started feeling around in my pockets.

“This looks like the place, Brick,” Harmony said.

“While you’re being so perceptive,” I said, continuing to dig through my pockets, “tell me why I can’t find my keys.”

“Because I have them,” she said, dangling them in front of me. “I drove, remember, handsome?” She moved to open the door, but suddenly announced, “Uh…This isn’t locked, Brick.”

“Again? Cover me,” I said, both of us pulling our guns. I took the lead, Harmony following me as we burst into the office.

“Oh, my…It’s…immaculate,” she said.

“Holy…oke, Massachussets…”


“I was stuck for a--Hey, look, I’m more surprised than you,” I told Harmony. “I’ve never seen it like this before.”

“Well, it’s certainly not what I was expecting,” Harmony said. “I assume your surprise means you don’t have some kind of a cleaning service.”

“Definitely not,” I said. “I like my stuff where I can find it, so the building cleaners know better. And they‘re lazy. This obviously isn’t the result of your average break-in.”

“Maybe an OCD burglar?”

“I’ve never been hit by cleaning bandits before,” I said, sliding the chest into my office as I holstered my gun. “This just seems weird. Nothing human did this.” Just then, a very sexy, five-foot-six, platinum blonde came bouncing into the office with a box of doughnuts. That was strange on several levels. Platinum blondes were rare, even in my circles. The only other one I’d met in the last couple of years was Whitney and her murder last week was still too fresh a thorn in my paw. On top of that, women didn’t usually come charging at me with food. It was odd, especially for a stranger. Falling back on the leading question of the day, I asked her, “Who the Hell are you?”

“Well, good morning to you, too, Brick,” the blonde said. “Is she your partner?”

“I don’t have a partner. She’s a client…sort of.”

“What?” Harmony asked.

“Clients pay. Now, do I know you?”

“Jonni. Jonni Berlin,” she said, setting the doughnut box on a desk that…wasn’t my desk. “You spell it just like it sounds: J-O-N-N-I.”

“That’s a funny way to spell Berlin,” I said. “Where’d that come from? That’s a real desk? You two see it, too?”

“Well, yeah, Brick,” the blonde said. “Are you OK?”

“I thought maybe I was seeing double,” I said. “Where’d it come from?”

“It’s been there all along. It was just buried under files and papers and boxes,“ she said. “I just had to peel back the layers of the years and there it was.”

“You came in to look for a desk?” I asked.

“Well, I was cleaning up in here.”

“For that alone, I should shoot you,” I said. “How am I supposed to find anything?”

“It’s all very organized,” she said. “I have a system.”

“Can you clean his apartment?” Harmony asked.


“Well, I guess,” the blonde said, “if he wants me to--”

“I didn’t even want you to clean in here!

“You’ll thank me later.”

“Later? Why would I do that? Why do people keep saying that? Why are you here?

“I’m your secretary, Brick,” the blonde said.

Aha! I don’t have a secretary!” I said. “That much I know. I‘ve never had a secretary.”

“I’m new,” she said. “You hired me the other night. You don’t remember?”

“He just got the hang of walking in a straight line,” Harmony told her.

“You bought me a drink,” she said. “We were talking about how I was trying to get into show business.”

“Oh, are you a thespian?” Harmony asked.

“Hold on, honey,” the blonde insisted. “I don’t know what you’ve got in mind and don’t take it personally, but I like guys.”

“And acting,” Harmony said, nodding slowly.

“Right,” she said. “No hard feelings, OK? I mean, you’re really pretty, but--”

“Can you type?” I asked, trying to stop the torture of their conversation.

“A little,” came the reply. “I can learn.”

“You’re overqualified,” I told her.

“But, Brick, you already paid me for the first week.”

“Wow,” I said, collapsing into my chair, “I obviously had too much to drink.”

“Pleeeeease?” she begged with sparkling eyes. “Actresses are supposed to have real jobs for when they’re not acting. Please. Please. Please. Please.”

“Fine,” I said with a sigh of surrender. “Just…use the other desk.”

“Thank you, Brick!” she said, jumping and squealing. “I knew you had a good heart. You won’t be sorry!”

Oh, that ship had sailed. Then, as soon as I had thought that, my new secretary stumbled into the box I’d just brought into the office. Sure, I shouldn’t have left it sitting in the middle of the floor. That was admittedly careless, but I knew it was securely shut. I certainly didn’t think anyone was going to kick it over. Once it did get kicked over, I was certainly surprised that its lid fell open.

“Umm…Brick?” Harmony spoke up nervously.

“Oh, no,” Jonni gasped, as she quick-stepped to keep her balance and not fall over. “I’m sorry. I know I just said you wouldn’t be sorry, but…is it broken? Please tell me it isn’t something fragile.”

Brick,” Harmony said, this time more insistently.


“It’s open, Brick,” Harmony said, getting agitated and sounding anxious. “It’s open!

“Swell,” I said, suddenly realizing what was going on. I pulled my gun again as I got to my feet, my desk chair rolling back as I stood. I moved around my desk, my gun barrel and my eyes fixed on where I was sure the box was as I positioned myself for a clear view. “You two back away. Move toward the door.”

“What’s wrong?” Jonni asked. “What is it?”

“We don’t know,” Harmony said, grabbing the blonde by the arm and pulling her along with her toward the office door, away from whatever possible deadliness lay within the box and had been freed once again. “Brick, be careful.”

My biggest concern at that moment was that Harmony had been exactly right: we had no solid clue about what was waiting for me in that box. All I had been given was a bunch of horror stories and vague warnings. It could’ve been nothing or it could’ve been painfully lethal or somewhere in-between.

As I crept closer, I ran down my usual mental checklist. I didn’t smell any brimstone, hear any evil laughter or see anything that looked like it wanted to eat my face. It was a short list, but it was a good start most times. I crouched low as I got closer to the box. The Official Private Eye Handbook (standard issue) had admittedly limited application when it came to checking out mysterious magical death traps. Since I didn’t have a ten-and-a-half-foot pole handy, I reached out with the barrel of my .44 and turned the box so I could see into it.

“What is it, Brick?” Jonni asked in a whisper.

I looked up at her and Harmony and almost smiled before putting my gun back into its holster. They seemed to relax a little. I reached into the box and took out a small, sleek electronic-looking…thing. Picking it up, it felt smooth and warm. The face of it appeared to be nearly all screen, the back was shiny silver.

“What is it?” Harmony asked as they started approaching carefully.

“Plastic, I guess,” I said, still examining it. “Looks like about four inches square, rounded corners…about as light, firm and flexible as heavy stock paper.”

“And about as thick,” Jonni said, reaching out to feel the thing in my hands.

Suddenly, the lightweight, nearly nothing sounded with a sharp pinging, like a triangle being struck lightly. Jonni withdrew her hand. The darker side of the square, apparently a screen or control panel, glowed gently and then greeted me with a simple stream of text.


“Hello yourself,” I said.

“It’s friendly?” Harmony asked.

“I don’t know yet,” I said. “Polite, at least. Maybe it makes small talk before it kills. I’ve met plenty of polite killers before. Maybe it‘ll try to lull me off-guard with knock-knock jokes and witty banter.”

“It kills?” Jonni asked.

“Hard to believe, huh?” I asked. “Hey, how do you kill people?”

>I haven’t killed anyone.

“A self-aware scrap of plastic?” Harmony asked. “Weird.”

“I’ve seen magic and I’ve seen mad science,” I told her. “From both, I’ve seen weirder.”

“Me, too,” Jonni said.

I tapped at the little square. It pinged at me again. “Hey, what happened to the last…five people who opened the box?” I asked it.

>What box?

“Well, there’s a concept,” Harmony said. “It’s gone beyond self-aware to totally self-absorbed.”

“Or it’s stupid,” Jonni said.

“Sounds like a breakthrough from R&D,” I offered. “Somebody’s developed an artificial blonde.” Whoever said an artificial intelligence had to have a high IQ?

“Hey!” Jonni snapped.

“Whatever it is, Brick,” Harmony said, “from what you’ve said, a lot of people have died because of it and a lot of others are still trying to get their hands on it. Shouldn‘t you figure out why? Isn‘t that, like, part of some code of honor or something?”

“I suppose. Or I could just turn it over to the only one still around that paid me to find it,” I said. “I‘ll sleep on it. Harmony, let‘s delve into your bag of tricks.”

Harmony took her camera bag in both hands and placed it on my desk, her eyes darting from it to me and back again as she slid it my way. Leaning forward, I unzipped the top of the bag and peered inside. I reached in and pulled out a boxy camera. “Old, slot in the front, simple lens, single-button operation…I don’t see anywhere to open it.”

“May I?” Jonni asked, holding out a slender hand.

I gave her the simple-looking camera. She took it in her hands, turning it over and over and examining it from every side. While she performed her examination, I reached back into the bag and extracted several photographs of a man and a woman. “I’ve got pictures of a man and a woman,” I said, passing them on to Harmony after I looked at each one. “The same two, over and over…some of her alone. This must be the woman Lew was hired to follow. What was the client‘s name?”

Harmony sighed as she looked over the photos, then said, “Uh…Tyler? Taylor? I think, Taylor. I never met him. It was just supposed to be a routine job.”

“I guess it didn’t stay that way,” I said.

“What’re these? Eagles?” Harmony asked, showing me one of the pictures.

It was a photo of the woman going into a hotel with statues outside the front doors. The focus was bad, but it looked like gold eagle heads and wings.

“It’s a magic camera,” Jonni said. “No film or winding. Point and shoot and the picture comes out through the slot. Neat, huh?”

“Yeah, peachy,” I said. “Not only was Lew a lousy photographer, but he was lazy. All that convenience and he couldn’t even be bothered to put notes on the backs of these.”

I fished around in the bag and its pockets to see if there was anything else inside.

“Jonni, you ever seen this place before?” Harmony asked, showing her the photo.

“Blurry gold eagles…hmmm…It does look familiar,” she pondered, “but I don’t remember where I’ve seen them before. Sorry.”

“It’s OK,” I said. “Either of you seen this before?” I asked, holding up the last find from the bag. It was a black vellum business card, reading “SOC“ in shiny gold type.

“No, never,” Harmony said, taking the card and studying it. “You?”

I reached into my pocket, then another…then another and finally produced a black vellum business card, reading “SOC” in shiny gold type.

“Well, how about that?” Harmony asked. “What’s it mean?”

“It may have something to do with the box,” I said, “or more specifically this little square of chatty plastic.”

“No, I meant, what does ‘SOC’ mean?” Harmony clarified.

“Ah, an excellent question,” I told her. “I know because I’ve asked it several times myself and I‘m known for my really excellent questioning.”

“And what did you learn?” she asked.

“When is a murder not a homicide?” I asked.

“I give up,” Harmony said. “When?”

“That’s all I’ve got,” I said. “Good questioning, but lousy answers. It’s been very aggravating.”

“Wait a minute,” Jonni said, tapping her head kind of like brunettes did when they were thinking. “What about…a murder of crows? That’s it!

“A what now?” I asked.

“What about murdering crows?” Harmony asked.

“No, a murder of crows,” Jonni said.

“A murder of crows?” I asked, the black business card suddenly starting to glow in my hand.

“What’s a murder of crows?” Harmony asked, her card starting to glow, too.

“It’s a group of crows,” Jonni said.

“Do you hear that?” I asked.

“Hear what?” Jonni asked.

“A voice,” Harmony said. “It’s like a…raspy whisper.”

“Yeah, it’s going on and on about…continuing paradox, I think,” I said, trying to make sense of the faint voice in my mind. “The dead…are alive…”

“I don’t hear anything,” Jonni said.

“Hold this,” I said, holding out the card to her.

She took a corner of the card and slowly began to nod her head.

“You hear it now?” Harmony asked.

“Yeah, it’s…spooky,” Jonni said, withdrawing her hand and shuddering. “Something about the dead. Crows are carrion eaters. They feed on the dead.”

“They’re looking…for something…a paradox…and for me,” Harmony said. “The voice, it’s talking to those people following me!”

Shaken, she dropped her card. It stopped glowing. I set mine on the desk and it stopped glowing. The voices left along with the fading glow. “Well, that was slightly disturbing.”

“To say the least,” Harmony said, stumbling into a chair. “Could I get a drink? And maybe a cigarette?”

“Yeah, I’ll get you some water,” Jonni said.

“This is not helping my nerves. Why are they after me?” Harmony asked.

“Well, they were after Manning,” I reminded her, “probably for something they thought he had or thought he knew. You were the last one to talk with him and he gave you this bag. So why wouldn’t they be after you?”

Sorting through the photos Lew had given to Harmony, I picked out the clearest ones of the woman and man Lew had been following. “Here,” I said to Jonni, handing her the pictures. “Go to the Herald--”

“The newspaper?” Jonni asked.

“Yeah, the newspaper,” I said. “Don’t go to the Informer. They’ve been trouble lately. See Will Dunn and find out if he can identify any of the people in the pictures. The woman’s last name may be ‘Tyler’ or ‘Taylor’. And ask him if he knows what SOC means.”

“Is it safe to send her on her own, Brick?” Harmony asked. “For her, I mean.”

“Why not? No one‘s looking for her. You sure you got all that, Jonni?”

“Got it, boss!” she said, scribbling furiously in a small notepad as she headed for the office door. “I’ll be back before you miss me.”

“I don’t doubt that,” I said.

“I think you’ve got your hands full with that one,” Harmony said as she took off her hat and coat, revealing that snug green dress again. “Why’re you smiling like that?”

I felt my headache fade by half just watching her sit and breathe. Hubba-hubba. “I finally got an answer to that stupid riddle clue. I like making progress. I deserve a reward,” I said. “Pass the doughnuts.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

16457--A Brain Cell's Worth

My wife doesn't usually like to watch Jeopardy! with me.  She definitely doesn't pick Trivial Pursuit for family game nights, assuming it a foregone conclusion that I'll win.  I attribute it to being one of the benefits of being a writer: we accumulate a plethora of...selectively useful information.

She recently found a use for this that made her very happy: using me to help her win at online Jeopardy! and other such games.  Hey, I'll take it.

This Halloween she was lamenting having no idea where to find bits of last year's costume (sexy witch) that she hadn't seen in so long and if only...That's when I found myself walking to a particular cabinet and rummaging about in the back of it to pull out the things she needed.  Her face lit up as I pictured this lone brain cell sitting with this bit of otherwise useless information and being prodded by some other brain cell that was paying more attention ("Hey, don't you know where that is?  That's your thing, right?"  "Huh?  Oh, yeah!  Hey, I know this one!).

For an additional reward, when I drove her to work the next morning, she insisted I go inside with her to the cafeteria to partake in a custom-made omelette from their omelette chef (yeah, rough life).  I had to get it to go, but it was a change from cooking my own at home.  She assured me it was so good that I was going to have to eat it while driving.

Back in the car, though, I kept getting green lights.  Of course.  When I finally did get a red, it was at a corner with a homeless guy selling those homeless newspapers for a dollar.  "Sorry, can't buy a paper.  I'm busy eating."  Mmmm...brain cells rewarded for good work.  Happy brain cells.

Did I feel guilty?  Some people might, but not me.  The brain cells from that department were retasked for math processing, historical and comic book information years ago.  Besides, how guilty could someone feel with omelette-induced endorphins on the move?  If only they'd had some pancakes, too.  *sigh*