Posts Tagged ‘Mystery’

The Kids of Barrie Park Pt. 1

May 8, 2021

Liam flicked his lit cigarette into the dirt and brooded. The funeral had ended about twenty minutes prior but Liam had hardly noticed it start and end. Sure he grieved for the deceased, John and Tereza Ganton, but he had really come out of a sense of obligation. He had known the two of them since he was a small child. There was shared history there but especially shared tragedy. Being there and watching them get lowered into the ground made it all so real and it set his mind racing. Everybody just faded away while he thought about the implications. Maybe it was just a coincidence but maybe it meant something.

“Pick that cigarette butt up,” a woman’s voice said from behind him. It shook Liam from his fog but it did not make him jump. He turned to face Chantal. Even though it had been over two years since they had spoken directly, he still remembered her voice.

“Sorry, Chant,” Liam said and bent down to pick up the now cool butt. “I wasn’t thinking. Maybe I was thinking too much. Forget it.”

“None of that’s too uncommon at a funeral,” Chantal said. “Do you want to talk about it?” She reached out to comfort Liam but he moved away without really meaning to. He had the grace to look apologetic and Chantal let it go.

“You have to know what I’m thinking,” Liam said. “You were there that night.” He looked into her eyes with purpose. He spotted the scar across her left eyebrow that would never allow it to grow back again. She had gotten off light. Liam ran a hand over his own arm where a scar ran nearly from shoulder to wrist although it was covered by his cheap suit.

“I get it. They’re dead, Liam, and we had a connection to them,” Chantal said. “It hurts. It’s big but it is just a part of life.”

“It’s not just normal funeral stuff. Besides, you know that it doesn’t really hurt,” Liam said. “You know that both of us didn’t actually talk to them much. Most of us do not talk to each other. It’s weird.”

“And yet you and I both attended their wedding,” Chantal said with a sad smile. “We didn’t really know them but we were connected to them.” Chantal had a kind heart, it could be inspiring but it could also be annoying.

“We were connected,” Liam said, nodding in agreement. “We are still connected. That’s what I worry about. That connection. I’m worried this means something.” Liam knew he had that look in his eyes. That crazy look. He could see it in Chantal’s reaction. He was used to that reaction. As a freelance researcher in journalism, he was used to getting that reaction when he had a wild theory. The problem was, he was usually right.

“It means that the Gantons died, it’s sad, and nothing more,” Chantal said. “Now buy me dinner before you blow town again.” She took his hand and started pulling him toward the cars. Everybody else had pretty much cleared out except for the grounds crew of the cemetery. Liam went with her, walking toward his rental begrudgingly.

“We drove separately,” Liam said. “We’ll have to drive separate again. I don’t want to have to come back here, do you?”

“Hell no,” Chantal said. “I would never come back here if I had my way.”

“I think we’re agreed there,” Liam said with a nod. He almost reached for another cigarette but thought better of it. His fingers made a frustrated kind of motion as if they were disappointed at his change of heart. He shoved his hands in his pockets and shuffled toward his car.

“We’ll meet at Dona Habana,” Chantal called out. “No arguments.” She gave him her version of The Look which was meant to shut down any conversation for the moment.

“You know I hate Dona Habana,” Liam said. “I really hate Dona Habana.” It was an Afro-Cuban fusion place that Liam knew that Chantal loved. It was noisy and bright and the food disagreed with Liam’s stomach.

“I know you do,” Chantal called out with a big shit-eating grin. “That’s where I want to go and I said no arguments.”

“Fine,” Liam said. He stopped before getting into his car and watched Chantal drive off. He sighed and thought about that cigarette again when he thought he spotted something move in the distance. He narrowed his eyes in the gathering dusk and tried to decide if he had seen what he thought he did. What he thought he saw was a very tall person. He rubbed his eyes and decided that either way it was time to leave the cemetery. He needed food in his stomach and he needed to explain himself to Chantal.

Media Update 3/12/20

March 12, 2020


Knives Out

Rian Johnson really impressed me when I saw his breakout film Looper, a science fiction movie that was really innovative. He remained innovative when he delivered his take on Star Wars in the Last Jedi. When I heard that he was given a movie far away from toxic fandoms and it was a fun take on the mystery genre. When I saw the first trailers, I was all in. It has Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer all acting like they really enjoyed themselves and really put their heart into it. They are all hilarious and believable characters. Daniel Craig gets to really stretch his comedy and acting chops with a southern gentleman private detective. He is having so much fun in this role that it makes me wish he had stopped being James Bond years ago. The real star of the movie is Ana de Armas who plays the family nurse. She is so funny, sympathetic, and should be considered the absolute star of this movie. The movie was absolutely delightful. It had so many twists and turns that I was constantly surprised and overjoyed. I definitely recommend this movie.


Fosse/Verdon

I remember when I first saw the movie version of Cabaret and I was blown away. The music, atmosphere, choreography, and acting were all so good. It was an absolute game-changer for me as a young kid and the musical remains a favorite of mine. Bob Fosse was a legendary director and choreographer of musicals. He famously directed/choreographed famous musicals such as Sweet Charity, Chicago, and Pippin among others. He started in live theater and then eventually moved to feature films. He had a particular style. He did a lot of work on shows that were dirty, edgy, and sexual and he kind of became known for that. His third wife was Gwen Verdon, a legend in her own right that I was unaware of. She was an actress and dancer who was part of a lot of Fosse’s success. She had her own tumultuous and successful career including the lead roles in Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, and Chicago and then onto film. The show captures the darkness that wrapped around the lives of the two leads which constantly fought with the creativity they both definitely had. Sam Rockwell is great as the world-weary yet almost charmingly sinister Bob Fosse. Michelle Williams is superb as the successful yet emotionally floundering Vernon. Obviously, the strength of the show comes from their chemistry. I definitely recommend the show.


You’re Next

I had been hearing good things about this movie since it came out. I thought it looked a bit too snarky but I put it on my list. Since then, I have only heard more good things so I decided it was the perfect movie for this week. The movie is about a wealthy family getting together at their old estate when they suffer a deadly home invasion, actually more of a home siege. It is a little like the original The Purge but actually interesting. They really captured the terror of suddenly being exposed to death and violence. The star of the movie is Sharni Vinson who plays the heroine who seizes the moment and goes toe to toe with the deadly gang. Her arc throughout the movie is just so good starting as an anti-fascist college student and ending as a fierce warrior. The action was all really good. I am so glad that we are mostly past the days of torture porn and its excessive gore. Instead, we get the tension and suspense of a really good action movie mixed a bit with the horror genre. Every minute of the movie was so fun and I was drawn deeper and deeper as the movie went along. I definitely recommend it.

Weekly Music:
Caravan Palace – Miracle

Meg Myers – Running Up That Hill

虎落ブエ – Lordless Mimetown

Caravan Palace – Black Betty

Migos, Young Thug, Travis Scott – Give No Fxk

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Family Drama”
– I started Bojack Horseman Season 6
– I watched more Bob’s Burgers Season 10
– I watched more VODs of AGDQ 2019/2020 and SGDQ 2019
– I watched more Stumptown Season 1
– I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 1
– I watched more Elementary Season 1
– I watched more The Chilling Tales of Sabrina Season 2
– I watched more The Good Doctor Season 1
– I watched more She-Ra Season 2
– I finished The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2

Fire in the Sky (1993)

October 28, 2019

When I was ten years old, I somehow saw the trailer for this movie and after that, I was haunted by it. I watched other scary movies at the time but this one stuck with me. Every time I saw the poster, I froze up. Part of it was that it claimed to be based on a true story and I was a gullible kid. The idea of aliens being out there with the goal of floating around and targetting humans for the sole purpose of kidnapping us for mysterious and nefarious purposes. Alien abductions were supposed to happen without warning when people were out in the middle of nowhere and alone. At the time, I remember going on weekend camping trips with the Indian Guides. I was really scared that I was going to be abducted by aliens. Even though I was ten, I knew they would not hesitate to take me. I remember our group going out into the middle of the woods to experience what being in total darkness was like in order to tune in with nature and connect with a time when we did not have light bulbs or batteries. I looked up and the sky and saw a shooting star and I panicked but silently.

Another part of why the idea of alien abduction was scary to me is that the whole process was unknown. Alien abductions have been used to explain away so many seemingly weird happenings. When I became a skeptic, I confronted my fears and delved deep into all of the conspiracies. There is a rich tapestry of interesting theories and observances. The main thing that had scared me was that people lose time and then experience what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A lot of fears of aliens combine fears that we have in the real world and apply a heavy layer of the supernatural. For example, probing combines most people’s fears of sexual assault and medical procedures with the added horror of it being done by weird creatures. I also really got into reading books written by John Keel who came up with the Mothman. He also crafted theories about the Men in Black and aliens being visitors from other dimensions or other time periods and not outer space. It is definitely all disturbing to think about.

The first thing I noticed was how well they were able to capture the feel of the 1970s (which is when the story was written). The movie even feels gritty like a lot of seventies movie looked and felt like. The story is apparently a bit simplified from the original book which I can definitely appreciate seeing as how the story was never proven to be true anyway. This is often done when adapting books to movies or television and it works well to cut the fat. The movie is partially told as a mystery and it was interesting to watch that unfold. The special effects, when they appear, are really good. A lot of it is understated and shown quickly so that it has more of a Jaws effect. They do a really good job of not explaining any of it, leaving it to the audience to try and figure out what is going on. If this sort of thing were to happen, we would probably have a difficult time figuring out what objects were what except from context. When it gets insane, it gets delightfully insane like something out of a Nine Inch Nails video mixed with Cronenberg weirdness.

Part of what makes this movie work is the performance of Robert Patrick, a bit of a legend in genre films. Patrick is really believable in his role as a backwoods lumberjack. He is so good at playing the stoic and serious man. Also turning in an excellent role is the legendary James Garner who is extremely likable as the big shot Police Lieutenant investigating the incident. However, the main character is played by DB Sweeney and he is instantly likable and interesting as a wide-eyed idealist. He is based on the man who wrote the book about what he believed happened. The story is told in flashbacks and post-event which means that everybody involved has to almost play two roles. Sweeney is especially good at it, acting as the brave man and the shattered man. The rest of the cast is mostly made up of the ragtag gang of friends who have rallied around their leader. They are all interesting guys.

Overall, I am really glad that I watched this movie to tie a bow on something from my childhood. Even with my hard-earned skepticism, I felt that same knot of fear before the movie started. I think it is a good enough movie but it dragged in some places and probably could have gotten to the point quicker. It definitely gets crazy and gross but you have to wait for it. Still, I think it is worth watching.

The Return of the Obra Dinn

September 9, 2019

I have been obsessed lately with playing a game called The Return of the Obra Dinn lately. I play it on the Microsoft Windows platform through the GOG (Good Old Games) app. I found out about the game by watching the early parts being played by Barry Kramer on Twitch. The game was developed and designed by Lucas Pope. It is his second commercial game after the highly celebrated Papers, Please. Like his earlier game, this game plays with your perceptions and completely submerges you into a world unlike your own. After watching some footage, I really wanted to play it myself because the game fascinated me.

The game is set in 1807 near the port of London, England. You play as an insurance adjuster for the East India Trading Company who is tasked with investigating a ship named the Obra Dinn. The ship was supposed to travel around the Cape of Good Hope but it disappeared in 1803. All sixty souls on board are unaccounted for. You are tasked with finding the fates of all sixty people who were on board. Some died, some disappeared, and some may still be alive somewhere. You are given a journal with a roster of names and three pieces of artwork with people’s faces on it. Every single passenger and crewmember is depicted in one of those drawings to help you match them up.

That is where things start getting weird. The East India Trading Company has also given you a magical compass. Now, I know some people are immediately thinking of the previous connection between The East India Trading Company and a magical compass in Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean franchise but it’s not that. This compass reacts to the remains of the deceased and transports the user into the moment of that person’s death. When you activate the compass, you are transported into a snapshot of a moment in the voyage of the Obra Dinn. You are immediately confronted with a grisly death in progress. It is often quite impossible to predict what you will be walking into next. Along with being inside the visual memory, you also get a short audio log of anything said directly before and after the death. A lot of this is automatically entered into your journal.

These are not only two-dimensional images either. They are three-dimensional environments that you can walk around in. You can peer at people’s faces and they will immediately be matched up with their picture in the drawings. This gives you your first hints on who they might be. You learn who people are from who people hang out with, what they do in crisis and downtime, and even where they sleep. You learn what happened to them by following the story from body to body, opening up more of the ship to really dig into what happened. It is a roller coaster of a story that I definitely do not want to spoil. Needless to say, it is an inspiring tale of fantasy and high seas adventure and intrigue.

From there it is a game of being a proper detective and using clues and informed guesswork to determine everybody’s identity and fate. As you get three fates correct, they are magically confirmed so that you know that you are making progress. At present I have determined 51 of 60 fates after playing for hours, running back and forth through memories for evidence and studying the journal. It feels so intimate being in such close quarters with these memories like you are part of their story. I am very close to completing the game but the last few puzzle pieces are hard to settle. Added to that, there is a sort of blacked out period in the journey that you can only get access to once you have submitted all but the last few fates. I eagerly await what horrible thing happened in that time period.

I definitely recommend the game. For those who are squeamish, the art style turns everything into a sketch style so the gore and violence are not photo-realistic. However, the deaths are still incredibly visceral, especially with the accompanying audio logs. The moment of reveal of each death can be horrific but most of the game is spent in quiet reflection, study, and observation to figure things out. The game has captured my imagination and I would love to see a similar game made in the future because I know that when I finish I will want more.

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.

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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