Posts Tagged ‘Detective’

The Nighthawk

June 1, 2019

(This was originally written in 2013 as part of NaNoWriMo.  I thought it was time to do something with it)

If this were a noir detective story then muted trumpets would be playing as I sipped whiskey with my feet on the desk.  There would be a haze of smoke in the room regardless of whether I am smoking or not. A leggy blonde or redhead would be cued up to enter in the next few minutes with some sob story.  For the record, this is not a noir detective movie. The room is in color and I quit smoking two years ago.  But the whiskey was spot on but only half a tumbler because I was just about to walk home for the day and the office was officially closed.

The private detective business had turned out to not be as glamorous as Humphrey Bogart advertised it.  Who knew that Hollywood did not, in fact, portray truth? I was stuck in this tiny basement office because I had been fired from my job as an actual detective for the police.  I worked narcotics with my partner, Harmony Hall, for years and we made a lot of busts and we received a lot of kudos from the big wigs.  I really believed that Harmony had been on track for a promotion.  She was going to get stuck with a desk job even though she always hated the idea.  At least, that’s what she said.

The good times ended when Harmony was killed during a stakeout gone horribly wrong.  Something came out of the shadows and tore Harmony and the crooks we had been tailing into shredded meat.  I call it a thing because I still do not know what it was.  I still cannot adequately explain my partner’s death.  I know that it was not human or anything that I had ever seen before.  I also know that the brass at the police station did not believe me when we got debriefed. What I do know is that they fired me or “let me go” for psychological reasons.  I feel that the only reason that I was not committed was that I eventually shut my mouth and agreed to walk away.

Harmony didn’t deserve to die and then get that horrible death swept under the carpet but I still didn’t know what to do about it. I don’t know if there is anything that anybody could have done about it.  I see that thing in my dreams.  It was all teeth, claws and sinewy shapes that made little sense. It stuck to the shadows and easily avoided shots from my service revolver. I had no experience hunting animals, especially ones intelligent and brutal enough to slaughter six drug dealers and one police officer and then slip away into the night without a trace.  How was there no forensics at the scene?

So now I was trying to make ends meet mostly by taking pictures of people cheating on their spouses.  It was the kind of thing that made me feel completely filthy but the landlady did not take reassuring smiles and good intentions as payment on the rent.  Some people are total hard asses when it comes to money. I was not prepared for the hustling up of clients or chasing them down and hassling them to pay me.  This job had quickly turned into a horrible headache but I had burned a lot of bridges by telling the truth.

But I still looked for that truth when I could.  In what little spare time I had, I scoured the news and the word on the street for anything weird.  I turned over whatever rocks I could find and poked my nose where I probably shouldn’t have.  I found some strange things that I could not really explain and honestly made me feel crazier.  I read through strange books on the weirdest subjects in search of something to explain.  A city is a strange place even without the supernatural elements that I thought that I had experienced.

The whiskey felt good going down in that sweet, sadistically masochistic sort of way.  Alcohol was dangerously seductive and there was a bad history in certain corners of my family.  Still, after a long week, it was much-needed anesthesia and that was good enough for the moment.  I was too restless.  I had spent too many days sitting in my car and watching motel rooms.  I felt like I wanted to do something but absolutely nobody had walked into my office today. Restlessness could become dangerous if I left it unchecked so I was just about to get up and go for a walk.

Of Course, that’s when the door to my office opened.  I had thought that I had locked that door and so I was about to look up and tell whoever that the office was closed.  To come back on Monday or never. Though, I did need something to do so maybe I wouldn’t send them away.  Then when I looked up they must have already left. If possible, I was both disappointed and relieved. They had left the door hanging open so I got up and closed it. I reached for my coat to just leave when some sort of smoke came in from under the door.  

At first, I thought it was a fire but the smoke was blowing under my door like it came out of a fog machine.  My church youth group had rented one when I was a teenager for a haunted house.  The memory was suddenly vivid. Whatever was going on, my fight or flight response must have been broken because I froze with one hand on my coat. I should have embarrassed that my first responder instincts had disappeared. I think part of the reason was that I could not smell any smoke.  I could not smell the smoke and I could not feel any heat or hear the crackle of flame.

With a strange, wet sound the cloud of smoke just suddenly dropped out of the air and condensed into a puddle on the floor.  As the guy who pays the rent, I started to properly freak out. I pressed myself to the wall and watched the puddle like a hawk with some sort of obsessive complex for watching puddles.  The puddle started to slide (or was it ooze?) across the floor toward my desk. I felt that if I followed it, I would be the guy in a John Carpenter movie who the audience was rolling their eyes at.  Maybe I should just bolt out of here and call the fire department. They wouldn’t believe me anyway. I wouldn’t believe me either.

Just as I was reaching for the door, fully willing to let the living puddle eat my damn coat, I heard a voice.  The voice came from the puddle. Of course, it did. With my luck, it would be a talking puddle.

Gaming Chronicles: The Unconquered Sun

February 4, 2019

When we were starting this campaign, we were actually just going to do one shot to test it out. We were told to pick a profession from the modern world and a flaw. We would be using these ideas as part of some quick character creation in the Fate system. That was all we were told. I had no idea what to expect from our Game Master because the previous two games had been in Science Fantasy settings. We showed up with our ideas and I was almost immediately called out for creating a character inspired by Veronica Mars. Not that I blame the Game Master for pointing it out but I felt a bit judged and embarrassed at the time. I think now that he might have actually been pointing it out in a fun way. Maybe.

The truth was that I actually stumbled onto it honestly. I had come to the table with the concept of being a private investigator. I had met a few private investigators through the lawyers I knew so I used them and Keith Mars as a template. I did not want to be a Sam Spade type of guy, I wanted to be a guy who dug in the dumpsters for a living and be called to adventure from there. It sounded like a useful profession for whatever we were getting into. The flaw I had picked (which I don’t remember) was rejected out of hand so I floundered for another one. I picked hallucinations and that eventually became hallucinations of my character’s dead father. Put it all together and I was like a male version of season one Veronica Mars. When it came time to pick a name I picked Dean Wyatt after Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt, two characters in the WWE who had crazy person gimmicks.

So, the first session began with our characters getting mysteriously summoned to a reading at a bookstore. The first tip that something was wrong was that it was a reading of a sequel to In The Mouth of Madness. Then the world started to be torn apart by old ones and our characters were killed off one by one by some sort of eldritch demon. That was a bit of a shock. Then we had one on one sessions with the Game Master which helped him sort our characters into classes. I got a warrior class and we were then informed that we were now champions of a Sun God in a forgotten past and that we were ‘exalted’. It was quite a rude awakening and we stumbled at first, learning how to be heroes.

In the following adventure, we pursued eldritch villains and tried to bring magic back to the modern world so that it would not be vulnerable to the Old Ones that destroyed it in our future. I tried to go a different direction from the other two fighters in our party. I chose a rapier instead of a huge fantasy-style weapon. I tried to fight with speed and finesse instead of pure brute strength. I got to pick an animal that was to be my emblem, appearing when I used magic. I got a little bit of flack because I picked a raccoon. I thought it was a fantastic choice considering my character dug through trash for a living. Personally, I have always loved the raccoon aesthetic even though my mom absolutely hates raccoons. We found out that we were actually reincarnations of heroes from the past. It was a whole thing. It was some pretty good high concept fantasy stuff that was hard to figure out in the moment.

I felt like I learned some more during this campaign but I was informed by the Game Master that I was pretty much a non-entity during gameplay. My anxiety made me fade into the background a bit but I contributed when I could. I apparently did not have enough impact on the story. There were too many times that I look back on where I should have acted instead and not worried so much about the consequences. It is a game and I should have had more fun with it. Maybe I would have had more impact on the story that way. I also kind of lost the core of my character through the adventure and became just another sword. In the end, I made the easy choice and asked to be sent back to the altered future to see if my character’s family was still alive.

The thing is, my character did have a lot going on but it was all going on in my head and not coming out of my mouth. I should have acted more instead of just reacting and clinging to a sword as my character’s sole identity. It was not all terrible but I feel like I could have done way better. I was a bit crippled by my relative inexperience and my anxiety. The good thing is that I was slowly strengthening my friendship with my friends. I considered these people friends and not just people I played a game with sometimes. This would be important when I got more comfortable and felt better about actually being in the driver’s seat. It was an important experience and I probably did not blow it as bad as I thought I did. It taught me a lot about what not to do and that’s a good thing even if I look back at that time and cringe.

Game Soundtrack:

Hall and Oates – Private Eyes

This one is a bit on the nose but it is actually one of my favorite songs. In his previous life, Dean was a private investigator. He spent a lot of time watching people in order to get to the truth of things so he could put food on his table. He was dogged when it came to finding information and he dug through people’s trash to go that extra mile.

The Birthday Massacre – Pins and Needles

When Dean’s father was killed, it deadened and hardened his heart. Living became more or less an exercise in going through the motions. When he first started to see his father, he thought he might be going crazy. When the existence of magic was confirmed, he felt like that part of his heart was coming back to life.

Rage Against the Machine – People of the Sun

We were literally playing champions of the sun, dedicated to keeping that sun shining on an intact Earth. In a way, we were raging against a machine. We were rebelling against a society that wanted to banish magic in favor of technology.

Character Questionnaire

What’s their name? Do they have any nicknames?
Dean Wyatt. His father sometimes called him gumshoe after they watched the Carmen Sandiego game show together.

How old are they chronologically, and how old do they appear?
About age 26 but they appear a little older than that. Probably around 30. He works long and late hours and has never shied away from the bottle so he has put some extra mileage on.

Physical characteristics, standard clothing and equipment

Dean has jet black hair, usually slicked back instead of actually managing it or getting it cut regularly. He does shave every day since it is important to make at least a little attempt to look professional while running a private business. He often wears short-sleeve button-up shirts for mobility and laundered slacks but tennis shoes. He also often wears his father’s brown leather jacket because he thinks it looks cool and it conceals the tools of the trade. This includes binoculars, lock picks, both leather and rubber gloves, camera, and sidearm. When shunted back in time, he wears armor stylized to show his new allegiance to the sun god. He carries a short sword.

Emotional characteristics – are they prone to getting angry/laid back/investigative/ despondent etc, personal prejudices?

He is usually pretty even-tempered and investigative and curious. He is willing to put in hard work to get the job done without complaining. Who would listen anyway? He does tend to get emotional when it comes to his dad. He gets angry if anybody puts him down and he gets frantic and distracted when he thinks he’s seen him. Also, due to a couple of years of picking through people’s garbage and catching cheaters, he does not have much faith that people are telling the truth.

Alignment, motivation and character flaws/needs

Dean is Neutral Good. He understands the law but, as a private detective, sometimes he has to bend the law to get the truth for his client. Still, he has never compromised his morals for money and he wants to do good in the world. His motivation is to do right by his father at first. Then, when the supernatural stuff starts happening, his goal is to either find or resurrect his father. He needs absolution from his guilt over his father’s death. He needs to know that he did everything to make it right. This leads to him being rather single-minded and sometimes pushing saving the world down the priority list.

What were the defining moments/events from their history?

The first defining moment was leaving his father’s detective business to try to be his own man. He needed to see what he was made of. The second defining moment was his father’s death which Dean believes happened because Dean wasn’t there to stop it. This led to him seeing his father’s ghost at times. Then, he himself died and was sent back in time to a strange land and tasked with saving the world.

Do they have any secrets? Who have they told, if anyone?

He sees the ghost of his father everywhere and he has told nobody about it, managing to keep it a secret even though it has consumed him. He also harbors intense guilt about the way his father died alone and would never tell anybody that. He also keeps the secrets of his clients very well.

Where are they from? Do they have relevant cultural associations/quirks? How patriotic & nationalistic are they?

He is from Boston but he has no special attachment with the place other than that is where he grew up. He was a white guy with no single point of heritage so there was no influencing culture there. He was a bit of an entertainment geek and he loved music and movies. He is not very patriotic. He believes in the system and in people helping each other but he has no great love for the government.

What was their childhood like?

Dean hated school, hated being pinned down and being talked at. Funny enough, he loved to learn but could not stand doing that while having to sit still. He played baseball with the neighborhood kids but really only did it so he wasn’t alone. His parents were elsewhere most of the time so he found their little home kind of lonely. He was always at somebody else’s house unless the rare family dinner actually occurred.

Who are their parents & siblings, and husband/wife/significant other?

His mother was Quinn Wyatt, former secretary for his father’s business. His father was Harrison Wyatt and he was a private detective and a tough guy. They were pillars of the community. Dean was an only child and never really dated anyone.

What are their major personal beliefs/ideologies?
1. People lie and do it well
2. People are basically good
3. Evil must be punished

See You On the Other Side

June 24, 2017

I stood on the threshold of the portal. The surface of it was shiny like a mirror dusted with glitter. I could see strange neon-bright circuitry creeping over the walls next to the portal. Pretty soon, the invading technology would be advanced enough to grow a defense of the portal from that strange circuitry moss. Laser grids, grenade launchers, machine guns, sonic pulse emitters and anything else the stuff could think of. It was only a matter of when not if. We had to hurry.

I touched the communications button under my ear gingerly. I was a little wary of being watched in that hallway. “Marianne,” I said into the implanted microphone. “Timing is crucial. Are you going to get here in time?” There was a three-second pause that lasted an eternity.

“Yeah,” Marianne said as she rounded the corner a few feet away. “Hold your horses. It took a bit longer to get through security. This is getting even crazier than I thought.” She spotted the portal and her eyes went wide. “Much crazier.”

Marianne had been my client for the past month. She was the Chief Operating Officer of DOT Industries when the company started to act strangely. Strange orders started coming in and paperwork was getting fudged. When Marianne started to look into it, she had been reprimanded. When she persisted in investigating, she had been removed from her position with a healthy severance payment. She had used part of that severance to hire me. We had been digging for a month and now we had snuck into one of the buildings belonging to her former employers.

“That’s why you hired me,” I said. “I was right, by the way. We have an invasion in progress or at least that’s what it looks like.”

“So do I owe you twenty bucks?” She asked.

“I’m not really happy about it but yes,” I said. I gestured toward the portal. “Shall we?”

“We’re not going in there are we?” She asked. She had obviously been a tough executive but there was a difference between that and jumping into a strange portal. Adventuring took a different kind of guts and maybe a little stupidity.

“We have to know what is on the other side,” I said. “What did you think we were going to do?”

She pulled out a camera. “Well, take some pictures and get the word out.” She aimed the camera at the portal.

“No flash,” I said. “You might startle the moss.”

“Of course not,” Marianne replied. She snapped the picture and then two more to be safe.

“That thing doesn’t have any scanning technology, does it?” I asked. I was no scientist. I could pretty much tell the portal was stable but beyond that, I was out of my element. I would have loved a little more data.

“No,” She said. “However, it did upload to three different servers and it was sent to a friend of mine.”

I had to admire her drive and attention detail. “Well, if you’re done with the photography, we may never get another chance to see the other side of this thing.”

“How do we know we can get back?” She asked.

“I have a transponder on me that I can activate,” I said. “It will provide coordinates for our own portal. I have friends on standby too.”

“You think that will work?” She asked.

“It hasn’t failed me yet,” I said. “By the way, if that techno-organic moss is what I think it is, we should try and keep electronics close. They might be able to absorb our tech.”

“What about you?” She asked.

“What about me?” I asked, watching her watching me.

“Well, I don’t want to pry,” She said. “But don’t you have a lot of cybernetic parts?” I must have shown surprise on my face because she added. “I do my research before hiring anybody.”

“And you still hired me,” I said softly. Cybernetics and old school surgical corrections had fallen out of favor when genetic recombination and nanotechnology had advanced.

“I don’t judge,” She said. “You’re not less human to me. Just somebody who got broken and repaired the best way they knew how.”

I was surprised by the acceptance. “Um, thank you,” I said. “We really should be going, though. Anything could set off the alarms at any minute.”

“Um, can we breathe on the other side?” She asked.

“If it was dangerous over there, we would have already passed out,” I said.

“Comforting,” She said.

I nodded and drew my pistol from where it was shielded from scans, hidden in a cavity in my right hip. I ran through the portal. It felt like stepping through a curtain of falling mercury except for that right afterward you feel like you are falling. Except, you are still stepping forward in the same moment. It is incredibly disorienting which is probably why portal travel never caught on commercially. After a swirl of light and color, I came out on the other side. I stepped aside so that Marianne would not bump into me when she came through. Then I turned to look at what we had stumbled onto.

The place was absolutely covered in eye-searingly neon circuitry. The stuff had formed itself into structures either for purposes of form or function or both. It was hard to take in but it strikingly beautiful. I heard a soft rippling noise from the left of me. Then Marianne let out a soft and breathy ‘Wow’. I nodded, that was the word for it.

Dean Wyatt Begins to Assemble the Murder Board

February 9, 2015

Yes the title here is a reference to Castle.  It turns out that my GM did not kill off my character while I was absent. He’s now tried twice but each time Dean has returned from the brink of death like the fleas that avoid multiple bug bombs.  So I will give Alternate Dean a break and visit Dean Classic who I had all but given up on.  It was great re-engaging the character as I had withdrawn my emotions from him when I thought another author had killed him off.  Don’t worry if this piece is confusing as it is a reflection of how confusing the storyline of our sessions are.  This is basically what I was thinking in the last hour of the session and especially as I drove home listening to J-Pop and BABYMETAL on Pandora.

*       *       *

Dean lay in his bed, once again laying his head down in a foreign land.  This time the team had landed themselves in the middle of a muddy swamp full of frog people which reminded Dean of a Hulk comic he had once read.  Those were frogs right?  The whole thing was strange and had only gotten stranger.  He had been glad to go out and drink with Carlos and Chuck, probably two guys he would never have hung out with.  In fact, he imagined a world where he would have been hired to investigate a cheating Carlos.  While it was true that drinking was pretty pointless, at least it allowed Dean to stop thinking so much for a little.  He also wanted to get away from Mario for a little while.

Now he had nothing keeping him from thinking.  He thought about traveling in the market with Chuck.  He was afraid of the secrets that Chuck was keeping and the threats that might represent in the future.  In retrospect, stopping at the strange empty restaurant had been a mistake.  Magic was still a pretty unsettling phenomenon but he knew that there must still be a cost for such things.  The waiter or maitre d’ had known about the map Chuck had.  What was on that map?  Dean couldn’t remember Chuck or Mario talking about the map before.  If the map was lost, would this help or hurt their mission?  The waiter had spoken with a lot of subtext seemingly meant for Chuck but Chuck hadn’t given the whole story.

The revelation that Mario was or will be or is the Perfect is not exciting or comforting news.  There are too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns attached to that information for Dean’s liking.  The Prophet, apparently an ex-schoolteacher, believed that he himself would change into the Perfect down the line.  Setting the fake in Tira Linga aside, that would mean two potential Perfects.  Since he was always referred to as The Perfect, Dean believed that there could only be one.  He’d seen Highlander and knew how that went down.

The townspeople had sworn fealty to The Perfect and apparently that was a metaphysically binding contract, one that the townspeople might be fulfilling subconsciously.  They had parted around Mario and they had molded the statue in the image of an older Mario.  Who instructed them what The Perfect looked like?  Why was the lower half imprinted with the hands of the worshiping townspeople.  The religious fervor had been frightening and had nearly killed Dean, Tina and had injured several in their team.  If the Prophet could broker a faith like that, he was even more dangerous than Dean had thought.

Mario’s magical display was interesting to say the least.  Dean was grateful to be healed from near death by their compatriot’s magic.  Now there were crops and fish in abundance and hopefully that didn’t destroy the ecosystem of the swamp.  How much power did Mario have?  Dean had never really trusted Mario fully.  Maybe it was the way he freely insulted Dean, maybe it was his admitted criminal past.  Lately Dean had found him more likeable based on their agreement that the Prophet must die.  Handing a powerful lineage and powerful magic to Mario was enough to form a knot in Dean’s stomach the more he thought about it.

There were a lot of questions that still needed to be answered and a lot of ground to cover.  Dean had noticed that during dinner everybody had reacted to Mario’s announcement oddly.  Sure they looked surprised but they also looked unfocused for a moment.  What was that?  Why had it not happened to Dean?  He needed to choose one of them to confront about the incident but that was for another day.  He wondered what they would think of his not being included in their event.

Still, their mission remained the same.  They had to take out the Deathknights, Abyssals, Technocracy and now the Infernals as well.  They were surrounded by enemies and bound together by either destiny or free will.  It was hard to see which one governed the future now more than ever.

After Midnight with Dean Wyatt

November 27, 2014

I saw his face again and for the umpteenth time I woke up in a cold sweat.  He died.  He was dead.  It was my fault for not being there.  It would never not be my fault.  It will always be my fault.  I reached over and took a sip of water from an almost spent water bottle.  There was no going back to sleep now.  Besides, I needed to take a piss.  I climbed out of bed and almost immediately bumped into his desk.  My desk.  It’s my desk now.  I reached up and pulled the chain and blinked in the sudden light of a bare bulb.

I trudged to the bathroom and did my business.  When I stepped back out, I swore again to get somebody to clean the place.  At the very least it hadn’t really been cleaned since before he died.  With mom gone, it could have been years since it was cleaned.  His pictures and his achievements were still up on the walls.  The only thing of mine was my old high school diploma but he had hung that up.  He had been more proud of it than I ever was.

I had thought of packing it all up and moving it out more than once.  Diamond Investigations had been there for ages though.  If something operates in the same place for decades, is it not an institution?  It seemed a crime to let it all go even if it was just so I could set up shop elsewhere.  Dad wouldn’t have given up the fight so easily.

He created Diamond back in the day to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.  He always said he picked the name because it sounded classy.  I think he picked it to honor all lof those baseball games he and Pop Pop shared.  The diamond should have been green and not blue but there was no way to change Dad’s mind once it was set.

There was a little bit of coffee left in a cup from the afternoon and I sipped it with a grimace.  I hate coffee but I need it so I drink it under protest.  Besides, if I have to have it around to offer clients then I should probably drink it now and then.  It tasted no better after being left out so long.  It didn’t taste any worse either.  I pulled out my desk chair and sat down.  Since there was little hope of going back to sleep anytime soon, it would be better to look through files.  At least it was more productive than tossing and turning for an hour.

The Edwards case was pissing me off.  The husband was cheating.  The wife said she was sure of it. After two days, I was sure of it too but the slippery asshole proved elusive.  I just needed one picture and it would be payday.  Ther had to be a way to get it done.  Dad would have said what he always said: “Anything it takes, just get it done.”  Which was how I broke my in middle school.  I learned lessons and grew some character that day but I definitely got that Frisbee off the roof.

I looked to my left and there he was sitting in one of the client chairs.  Luke Wyatt, my dad.  It was as if the last few months had been a dream and he was alive.  He was right there but he wouldn’t look at me.  He was not looking at me.

“Dad?”

He stood up and started to walk out.  It reached out but he was already out of reach.  I stood up and followed but he was moving so fast.  I knew Dad had entertained dreams of playing in the minors and had run track in high school but this was ridiculous.

“Dad!?”

He still did not turn.  I followed him as fast as I could to the door but between pushing the door open and climbing the steps to street level, I lost him.  I stood in the middle of the sidewalk at a loss in my socks.  There was no sign of him.  There was no sign of anyone.

He was dead.  Wasn’t he?

Herot the Detective

January 26, 2014

(This is a story that I wrote in Union Station and also the MARC train from DC to Baltimore after a viewing of the Impressionable Player’s Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady.  It is presented here as it was handwritten in a notepad except where I added two words near the end.)

Herot turned the dagger in her gloved hand carefully. The thing looked like it waas from the middle ages. The lab techs might know more than that. They would certainly lift any prints and type the blood. “Who uses a medieval dagger to kill a guy in this day and age?” She thought. She deided to say it out loud.

“Who uses a medieveal dagger to kill a guy?”

“A dastardly, murderous assasin, of course.” Murphy answered. Even at two in the morning, his suit was crisp and not a hair was out of place.

In contrast, Herot’s brown hair was all over the place even with the brush she and tried running through it. She
shot him a deadly look. If the look bothered him, he didn’t show it.

“That was rhetorical, Murphy. Once again, you’re only good for driving the car.”

She didn’t wait for Murphy to respond. She walked on toward the body. The blonde was in a nightgown and other than the gaping knife wound, she was really beautiful. Herot bent down and looked but did not touch. No smeared make up, no tangled hair and no tears in her panty hose. Of course, there was a tear in her dress but the knife had probably seen to that. Whoever had killed her had done a really good job.

Murphy lit a cigarette which earned him another foul look from Herot. He shrugged and took a drag anyway with the slightest smirk. “Seems to me that this knife means the killer knew her. Knives are just so personal.”

“It seems to me that this is an assumption. We do know that either the murderer had no time to clean up or wasn’t worried about getting caught.”

“Well, which was it if you’re so smart? I’m just here to back your play, after all.”

“No. You’re here to learn. I won’t always be here to do the work for you.”

“Yeah, yeah but which is it?”

She sighed deeply and gave him the look for the third time. At least this time he had the grace to stamp out his
cigarette. Away from the body this time. Extra points.

“I think the killer didn’t care.”

“Didn’t care? So we’re with a psycho?”

“Maybe it’s somebody very, very smart and confident. It takes a lot of work to set up a murder.”

Murphy looked around as if he were seeing it all for the first time. “Ok, yeah, I can see that. Everything looks very clean.”

“A little too clean?” Herot asked, a pleased smile spreading across her lips.

“I guess. Why? Something I missed? Again?”

“If you don’t miss things, I can’t really teach you. I also can’t feel superior which is the only thing keeping me awake.”

“The sooner we solve this case, the sooner you get to sleep.”

“Aha but I’ve already solved this case.”

“No way. You’re smart, Herot, but you’re not that smart.”

“That’s still Detective Herot to you, Murphy.”

“Then why isn’t it ‘Seargent Murphy’?”

“You have to earn it, Murph. You have to earn it.” She smirked. Teasing the poor guy was way too fun.
“Whatever. Who is the murderer?”

Herot gave an exasperated sigh as if the answer should be obvious. “There was no murderer.”

“So, suicide?” Murphy asked, trying to mime the action but he had trouble getting the angle right.

“No murderer because there was no victim. No victim because nobody died.”

“What? Nobody died? What about her?” He pointed at the girl’s body.

As he pointed, the girl suddenly sat up and brushed herself off.

“She means that I’m not dead, jackass.” The girl said as she got to her feet.

Murphy very nearly swooned in his shock. Herot did not even flinch.

“Sh .. She’s not dead?”

Herot smiled. “You are getting more observant every day.”

The former murder victim for her part stood fuming. Herot turned away from Murphy and toward the girl.

“What’s your name, ma’am?”

“Margaret Sinclair.” The girl answered almost through clenched teeth.

“What was this all about?”

“It was briefly a performance art piece until you ruined it.”

Murphy’s mouth stopped hanging agape and started working again. “Wait, how did you figure it out, Detective?”

“Well, like we said, the crime scene was far too clean. The crime was out in the open for everybody to see. The tear in the dress was obviously made with scissors. That is fake blood as real blood dries brown. No make up smudges, messy hair or, mos importantly, broken nails. So you didn’t fight back. What clinched it, though, was when I complimented the kller you blushed.”

Margaret looked insulted. “I did not.”

“You did but only just a little bit.”

Murphy shook his head, clearly impressed. “So what do we do now?”

Herot shrugged. “I can’t think of a crime we can charge her with unless you count dragging me out of bed in the middle of the night. I guess we let her go.”

Margaret nodded. “Yeah thanks but my big end of the year project is still ruined.”

“I don’t know about that.” Herot responded. “You really did do a good job. I’ll make you a deal. If you clean up your own crime scene, I’ll talk to your professor for you. I might even throw in the crime scene photos if I’m feeling generous tomorrow morning.”

Margaret sighed and shrugged, every bit the drama queen. “I guess it’s the best deal I’m going to get. Fine, I’ll do it.”

Herot shook her head. “You really are a ray of sunshine.”

Murphy coughed and spoke up. “So we go home?”

Herot nodded and yawned. “We go home. You get to write the report tomorrow though. Oh and call into dispatch and tell them to forget about collecting the body.”

Murphy nodded, gave a little wave to Margaret and headed for their car’s radio.

“Good night, Ms. Sinclair.” Herot offered.

“Good night, Detective.”

Herot walked off into the night towards the car. They left Margaret Sinclair to clean up her own crime scene.


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