Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 4

Mountains and Molehills

Vince probably shouldn’t have slammed DeMarte’s car door like that, but his frustration had peaked. DeMarte’s behavior at Revolutionary Medicines was disgraceful. Instead of informing Revolution Dude about his cousin’s death and asking a few questions, he’d practically grilled the man on the spot. Vince had been a little offended when Revolution Dude had said he might need a lawyer to talk to them, but it turned out that he was right. That DeMarte was held up as an exemplary detective ate away at the lining of Vince’s stomach. Following up on Otis Gorski and Revolution Dude was pointless busywork, but Vince was glad for it because it got him away from DeMarte for a while.

Vince understood the principle of DeMarte’s insistence that they investigate this case thoroughly, but in practice, it made no sense. The more people they talked to, the more it looked like the man had been drunk and had an accident. Maybe he wasn’t looking for the zebras when he heard the stampede, but there was no reason not to expect horses here. Yes, Revolution Dude was clearly not telling all, but that didn’t mean anything. Families have secrets and not everything needs to be said, especially to a couple of police detectives. Guilt wouldn’t necessarily be a motivation not to talk.

What worried Vince was that DeMarte hadn’t yet figured out a motive, though he was certain the cousins were at the center of a crime. He was fishing and Vince didn’t like that. He might catch something that he didn’t intend.

Worse, he might catch something that he turned into a fish story to save his own face.

And Vince had an idea of what that could be.

***

Is Vince right? Or is DeMarte really on to something? Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and decide for yourself.

Speak the Language

“What do you do for a hobby?”

This question has always frozen me in my tracks. I’ve never been very good at answering it. Other people can readily say they knit or watch birds or collect ceramic oysters. Me? Not so much. It seems like the things that I do as a hobby come and go. I made jewelry for a while. I did oil pastels, water color and ink drawings, painted wine bottles. I sewed. By hand, of course, because I never could work a sewing machine. Sometimes it feels like writing is a hobby with my lack of completed projects, submissions, and published works. I suppose Book ’em, Danno could be considered a hobby, but I don’t really think of it that way. It’s fun, but it’s a project and it has a schedule, so it’s still work to me. Yeah, I don’t get paid for it, but you try explaining that to my brain. Try explaining anything to my brain. Let me know how far you get.

Because that’s the thing with hobbies, isn’t it? We live in a culture in which the monetization of your hobby is encouraged, particularly if it’s something creative. Is it really a hobby if you’re not putting the fruits of your fun time waster up on Etsy? It feels like that. Sure I made a nifty thing. Now what do I DO with it? Everybody is getting painted wine bottles for Christmas and now the family is discussing an intervention.

I’ve not spent my free time doing my crafty hobbies because I don’t know what to do with the crafts once playtime is over. For awhile I thought that was my true hobby, but that doesn’t make a good answer to the hobby question.

Then I realized the other day that I DO have a hobby. An unlikely one, for sure, but it fits the definition of doing something for fun, even if I do it every day instead of waiting for leisure time.

I learn languages.

As of this blog post, my streak on Duolingo is almost four years long. FOUR YEARS. And I just recently added my seventh language course. SEVENTH.

For the record I’m learning Spanish, French, Russian, Czech, Hawaiian, Korean, and Scottish Gaelic.

Why?

Because it’s fun.

I also may have a bit of an addiction to it, but whatever. It’s cheaper than smoking.

But really. Even on the difficult lessons and on the days when I can barely work English so I know Russian is going to be a challenge, I enjoy it. I am not at all good at it. My pronunciation in most of the languages is a joke. On my best days I can barely understand French. Czech grammar can give me fits. I’m not going to be freely conversing with any native speakers anytime soon. But it’s magical when I recognize a Korean word without a hint or nail the spelling of a Hawaiian word or somehow get the right pronunciation in Gaelic. I live for that high.

And that’s what a hobby is, right? Doing something for pleasure.

Well, this certainly pleases me.

April Writing Projects

Last month I managed to finish the sixth (?) revision of (Vampires) Made in America. In a perfect world, I’ll be done with this manuscript and I’ll be able to send it out to agents. But I don’t reside in perfection, so. It’s entirely possible that I am done with it. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with it. I should probably try researching agents again, but that’s another struggle. One I’m not in the mood for at present.

Instead, since it’s April, I’m going to be working on some poetry. Not a poem a day, like I’ve done before, but there are some poems that I’ve been wanting to work on and I’ve been putting them off because I’ve had other things to do.

I like writing poetry even though I’m not good at it (as my poor $2 patrons well know). It’s a nice creative exercise for me, using words in a different way. I don’t know that it’s helped my prose, but it’s a nice break from it.

The big Writer’s Digest Writing Competition is looming again. I’ve placed tenth in genre fiction and fifth in scripts. I’m really thinking about entering something again. Maybe a couple of poems. I’m always seeking to recapture my second place in state glory. Maybe something else. I know there’s not a lot of time before the deadline, but I’ve done that before. Granted, I’ve never done it while completely lethargic and lacking motivation, but hey, what’s a little challenge, right?

And how about the challenge of the last season of Murderville? Episode four of So Long, Neighbor goes live on April 13th, so become a patron now. $1 an episode lets you read. $2 an episode gets you a sweet bonus every other month, like the one going live on April 27th. Yeah, it’ll probably be a poem. Sorry.

Episode 22 of Book ’em, Danno just went live at the end of March and Episode 23 will happen at the end of this month. A special guest will be joining me. So, while you wait in trembling anticipation, give a listen and then do all the things -like, subscribe, rate, review, share, follow, whatever- to show a little love.

Book ’em, Danno–Episode 22

In “Killer Bee”, Five-O deals with a peculiar string of kidnappings, and in “The One with the Gun”, Five-O finds themselves one step behind a man looking for his brother’s killer. The former is an episode heavy with mental illness, PTSD, and the trauma of war. The latter features me raving about two of the guys that you’re not supposed to like. Look, the heart wants what it wants, okay?

A mild trigger warning for “Killer Bee”: If you watch the show before you listen to the episodes and you haven’t watched it yet, there is use of a racial slur that’s used in reference to Vietnamese soldiers during the climax. As I mention in the podcast episode (for clarity: I absolutely do not say the slur), it makes sense in the context of the scene and wasn’t uncommon at the time the episode aired, but it’s still unpleasant and upsetting, especially given the recent rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans here in the States.

Listen on Soundcloud and iTunes.

Please enjoy this picture of Steve talking to the beach goers who decided to investigate the shots fired because they have no sense of self-preservation. I mean, sure, it worked out for them, I guess.

An Anniversary of Sorts

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This month most people in the States will be observing their Covid-19 anniversary. It’s the last day they went into the office, the last time they ate inside a restaurant, the last time they went to a bar with friends.

My anniversary is March 16th.

That was the last day that the library I work at was open “normally.” I use quotes because even though we were open for our normal hours of operations and people weren’t required to wear masks yet, some changes had already started to happen. We’d taken out the seating and the soft toys, had gone to touchless checkouts, were sanitizing everything, and were washing every item that had been returned with bleach water. That last day was a mad house because the state lockdown was looming and we all knew it.

Our library director along with the board had decided that if the schools closed for spring break early, then the library would close as well, and that’s what happened. That Friday, the governor ordered the lockdown.

And now here we are, a year later.

Over on my Twitter timeline, I saw people starting in late February warning folks about their Covid anniversary, how it might hit them harder than they thought it would. I thought that made sense. Some people were harder hit by the pandemic than others. I consider myself one of the luckier ones. I didn’t lose my job. In fact, I got paid when the library shut down and I was paid my regular hours when I was working much less than that once we were allowed back into the building. I haven’t had Covid (yet) and I haven’t lost anyone to it (yet), though I know many of my friends have. I didn’t think my Covid anniversary would be much of a big deal.

At the monthly meeting, our director said that we were going to do a small acknowledgment among the staff for our Covid anniversary, a thank you to all of us for being so flexible over the past year, which I think is great. We’ve all been busting our asses to serve our patrons during a difficult time. It’s nice to work for people who recognize that.

In the past week, as other people I know have been celebrating their Covid anniversaries, I’ve been working harder and harder to convince myself that mine isn’t a big deal. Because I’m feeling it more and more.

I’ve hit a couple of walls during the pandemic. Just splat into the brick of exhaustion, of frustration, of anxiety, of I-want-to be-done-now-thank-you. And I realize that I’m hitting yet another brick wall just in time for my anniversary. Maybe it’s because of the anniversary itself. Maybe it’s because now instead of arguing with people who don’t want to wear a mask because they think this whole pandemic thing is bullshit but we’re still requiring masks according to the CDC guidelines, I get to argue with people who don’t want to wear a mask because they’ve been vaccinated but we’re still requiring masks according to the CDC guidelines. Maybe it’s because with the vaccination, the end is in sight and I want so badly to time-jump to that point. Whatever it is, I am tired of this pandemic and everyone in it and I am splatting against this wall with all I have.

I, like everyone else, am done.

And, like many people, I am looking forward to the end of this.

I don’t want to celebrate a second anniversary.

Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 3

Next of Kin

Otis Gorski was Velvet’s partner in security at The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road. Vince had already met the man during their investigation into Simon Sidney’s death there. Gruff and professional, Vince couldn’t say he relished the idea of waking him up to inform him of his cousin’s death.

The car ride was silent, DeMarte with his laser sharp focus fixated on the road and Vince stewing about what DeMarte might have thought about that comment from Miss Vernee Dean and how to broach the fact that he was somewhat familiar with Otis Gorski as well. There was nothing conflicting about it, as far as Vince was concerned, but DeMarte might think otherwise. He might remove him from the case.

At that thought, Vince cleared his throat.

“I think you should know, Detective, that I met Mr. Gorski previously on another case,” he said, and then he waited.

DeMarte said nothing, just stared straight ahead as he smoothly navigated Sunday afternoon traffic.

“He was a witness in the Simon Sidney murder case,” Vince went on.

Nothing.

“He’s also works with Mr. McKinney’s neighbor, Velvet Li.”

DeMarte huffed.

“Carthos, I don’t need to know your whole life.”

Vince sat there dumbfounded for a few seconds before nodding.

“Okay.”

The rest of the ride was silent, for which Vince was both grateful and apprehensive. DeMarte’s face was unreadable.

They arrived at Otis Gorski’s house and Vince was all too happy to let DeMarte lead the charge to the front door, knocking hard. Otis Gorski wasn’t exactly pleasant when he was awake; Vince couldn’t imagine he’d be much better after being woken up.

The front door opened within a minute, and Otis Gorski stood there, fully dressed and looking wide awake, catching Vince by surprise. He thought for sure that the man would have been sleeping for his impending shift. But then, Velvet did say that Otis was a little weird.

“Mr. Gorski?” DeMarte inquired and he nodded. “My name is Detective DeAndre DeMarte. This is Detective Carthos. Is it all right if we come inside and talk for a minute?”

Mr. Gorski cast a glance past DeMarte to Vince and frowned.

“Don’t tell me they found another body out at the warehouse,” he said.

“No, sir,” DeMarte said with a smile as Vince shook his head. Seemed Mr. Gorski remembered him. “Can we talk?”

“Sure.”

Mr. Gorski led them inside, leaving Vince to shut the front door behind him, and into a living room that featured furniture that was probably bought used twenty years ago.

“Have a seat,” Mr. Gorski instructed. He sat in a well-worn, almost broken-down recliner and Vince sat on the couch. DeMarte looked like he didn’t want to sit anywhere, but he did after a second, on the edge of the couch leaving a respectable distance between himself and Vince. “What can I do for you?”

“Are you related to a man named Lister McKinney?” DeMarte asked.

“Yeah,” Mr. Gorski said, guarded, and for the first time, the resemblance between the living man and the dead man dawned on Vince. Same thin build, same bald head, same set of the mouth. They could have easily passed for brothers. “He’s my cousin. Why? What’s he done now?”

Vince looked over at DeMarte, expecting him to exchange a look with him, but DeMarte kept his focus on Mr. Gorski.

“I regret to inform you that your cousin has been found deceased earlier this afternoon,” DeMarte said, totally professional.

Mr. Gorski stared at him for a moment, almost in disbelief, and then slumped back into his chair, a soft sadness clouding his face.

“Well, damn. That’s a shame. How did it happen?”

“We’re not sure right now, Mr. Gorski. At the moment, we’re investigating it as a suspicious death,” DeMarte said.

Mr. Gorski raised his eyebrows. “Really? Why? I figured he just drank himself to death. That’s what he’s been doing. Pretty dedicated to it, in fact.”

“Maybe so, but he was found dead in his garage with a significant head injury,” DeMarte said. “It’s important the we investigate all angles of this case. We don’t want anything overlooked.”

Now DeMarte glanced over at Vince and Vince ignored him. It was a dig at him and at Detective Carpenter, he knew it. He’d suffered through a lot of those in the last year, though as the newbie he hadn’t been subjected to as many as Carpenter. Unsurprisingly, many of those digs had been made by Detective DeMarte.

“I suppose that’s smart,” Mr. Gorski said. He sat up straighter in his recliner. “I doubt he did anything much more than get drunk and fall over, though.”

“Be that as it may, I’d appreciate it if you bear with us and answer a few questions,” DeMarte said.

“Okay.”

“Have you heard from your cousin lately?” DeMarte asked.

“Not lately,” he said, shaking his head. “Think I might have talked to him on the phone a couple of weeks ago. Haven’t seen him since February, I think. But that’s not unusual. We were real close as kids, but we grew apart as adults. I got a job working overnight and he got to drinking. Those schedules don’t work out so well.”

“So, you hadn’t seen him lately,” DeMarte said, jotting it down in his notebook.

“Not since February.”

“But you talked to him a couple of weeks ago.”

“Yes.”

“Anything unusual about that conversation? Did he sound upset or out of sorts?”

“Nope, just half-lit like usual.”

“Would you know of anyone who’d want to hurt your cousin or any reason someone might want to hurt your cousin?” DeMarte asked.

“No. Not since he stopped drinking bars,” Mr. Gorski said.

***

Can the remaining two Wyliss boys shed any light on what might have happened to Lister? Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and find out what they have to say.

March Writing Projects

Last month I decided to do a couple of minor fixes on a few projects. I fixed my issues with the Ivy Russell novellas. And I sort of did the minor revision on (Vampires) Made in America, which I suspected I had already done, and I kind of had, but this just clarified it further. I think. I hope.

But since I’ve already done the minor fix on the manuscript, I might as well give it another once over, just to see if there’s anything else that needs tweaking. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be lucky enough to call it the final revision.

After that…who knows?

Speaking of an uncertain future, I have no idea what’s going to happen to my Patreon after the final season of Murderville, but I do know that right now, it is the place to be. Episode 3 of So Long, Neighbor goes live on March 9th. Become a patron just in time for the send off. $1 an episode lets you read; $2 an episode let’s read and gets you a sweet bonus.

The latest ep of Book ’em, Danno just went live and the next ep is due at the end of the month. Episode 21 features three season 2 episodes of Hawaii Five-O. What three? Is that a trick? Yeah, it kind of is. But you’ll only understand the magic if you listen. Also like, subscribe, favorite, share, and otherwise show a little love. My ego needs the boost.

 

Book ’em, Danno–Episode 21

Three -yes, three!- season 2 episodes. A bomber intending to kill Steve only blinds him in “Blind Tiger”; “Bored, She Hung Herself”, the lost episode of the show; and Steve tries to help an AWOL seaman in “Run, Johnny, Run.”

There’s a pre-Happy Days Marion Ross and a very young Christopher Walken. Could you ask for more? Yes, but you shouldn’t. This is an embarrassment of riches.

Listen on Soundcloud and iTunes.

Also, don’t mess with Nurse Lavallo.

Fixing Ivy

I wrote the first Ivy Russell novella, Cheaters and Chupacabras, back in the early 2010s. I self-published it and then ended up writing three sequels, The Timeless Man, The Odd Section of Town, and Firebugs and Other Insects. Instead of publishing those three individually, I just put all four Ivy Russell novellas together in a big omnibus and published them together. And like most of the things I write and then publish, I moved on to the next project and didn’t give it much more thought.

Until I did.

There’s a character in the novellas named Riley who’s a trans man. I tried to be as mindful as possible when writing this character, but as hard as I tried, some of the language and character bits just didn’t age well. They didn’t completely molder into unintentional transphobia, but they definitely wilted into failed ally intentions.

I’ve been debating for a while about whether or not to update those parts. Part of it is my own laziness, but the bigger part was the idea of leaving it as is as part of the bigger overarching display of how my writing in general has grown. That yes, even I make mistakes despite my good intentions of including the character.

In the end, my own discomfort with leaving it as it was knowing I could -and should- do better won out and I did some mild rewrites of those parts. To ensure that everything flowed together okay, I ended up rereading all four novellas in the course of a week.

Which challenged me in a different way. In addition to my laziness telling me it would be a lot of work to fix the Riley parts (it took less than an hour), I was worried that once I started looking, I’d be fixing all sorts of things. This wording, that little comma that no one else would notice, tweak that bit of description, etc. And though I did end up fixing some egregious mistakes that I missed during my initial proofing (it’s tough being a one-person show) and made another minor change to more accurately reflect the culture of a different character (a Hawaiian man nicknamed Sweet Pea), I left the rest of it alone, despite my overwhelming urge to fix it all.

Because even with the Riley issue (and to a smaller extent, the Sweet Pea issue) fixed, the novellas still illustrate how I’ve grown as a writer.

Even if some of that growth is kind of embarrassing and awkward and painful to read.

Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 2

Talking to the Neighbors

Lister McKinney’s house was something like his garage, organized chaos. It was easy to see that nothing had been disturbed or taken. Nothing had probably been moved in months.

The door from the garage led into the kitchen and Vince was greeted with a familiar sight: a pile of miscellaneous detritus on the kitchen table. His own looked quite a bit like this, only not piled so high. Where he might have a few months, this looked like years. Vince opted to do a walk-through of the house looking for any important papers that might lead him to a next-of-kin, knowing that he was probably going to end up sifting through that kitchen table in the end.

There was a lot of stuff everywhere, no rhyme or reason or filing system, but it seemed like anything Lister McKinney considered important was probably on the kitchen table. He couldn’t find it anywhere else.

Vince carefully sorted through the contents of the table, noting the bills, a few old past-due notices, and the junk mail that never made it to the garbage can. Under one messy pile, he found Mr. McKinney’s checkbook. A quick glance as his finances painted an interesting picture. First of all, the handwriting was incredibly neat, small, block-print, something Vince wasn’t expecting. Secondly, he lived mostly off of social security, the deposit noted consistently during the first week of every month. However, at some point during the middle of the month, there might be one or two other deposits, nothing overly large, never more than a few hundred dollars, and each deposit was noted with either “Otis” or “Virgil”. He set the checkbook aside.

A little more sifting and he dug up an old picture of three boys about ten years old. On the back was the year and the names of the boys. They were identified as the Wyliss boys, but none of them bore that name. Instead, the names Lister McKinney, Otis Gorski, and Virgil Clapp were listed in the pristine handwriting common to women back in the day when penmanship was a valued thing. In parenthesis under the names was the word “cousins”.

Putting together the pieces, it seemed likely to Vince that the Otis and Virgil in the checkbook were the same Otis and Virgil in the picture.

And once again he found himself in bit of a dilemma.

Because the name Otis Gorski was familiar to him.

With a sigh, Vince left the kitchen and went back into the garage. He’d ask Officer Jensen if he could borrow her squad’s computer.

He might know the name, but he didn’t know the address.

#

The neighborhood was pretty lively for a Sunday afternoon in late spring. People were probably out doing yard work, running errands, oblivious to the crime committed on their block. Or so they thought. Detective DeAndre DeMarte was confident that he was going to find a witness or two from the clump standing on the lawn opposite Lister McKinney’s house. No doubt one of them saw something; they just didn’t realize they saw it yet.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” he said as he approached the group, which fell silent as he spoke. He had that way with people. “I’m Detective DeAndre DeMarte. I was hoping to ask you folks a few questions about what’s going on across the street.”

***

Whatever will the neighbors say? Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and find out.