Murderville: So Long, Neighbor–Episode 1

A Dead Neighbor on Sunday

Spring thaw in Munsterville thawed more than just the ground, creeks, streams, and patches of Lake Munster. It thawed the population, too. After several months of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures, the citizens of Munsterville welcomed the first warmish, sunny day, emerging from their winter hibernation with no intention of returning until the end of autumn. No false spring giving way to winter temperatures could convince them to put on their heavy coats again.

Flip flops and shorts weren’t the only things that emerged in spring. So did the criminal activity. Committing and/or solving crimes is more difficult in a parka, so at the first hint of warm weather, the pace of both picked up, plateauing during the summer.

The Munsterville Police Department was known for their dedicated officers, particularly their detectives, as they were charged with solving some of the toughest cases in the city. Those cases usually involved a suspicious death. And to be honest, most deaths in Munsterville were suspicious. After all, it’s not called Murderville for nothing.

Detective DeAndre DeMarte walked into work every day with that thought on his mind. He took nothing for granted on his cases, investigating every aspect and every angle. Some cops thought it was overkill, but he had the record to back up his methods. He was the best detective in the whole precinct, and he didn’t get that by being the best looking (which he was) or the best dressed (ditto). He got that through hard work and because he never let a theory go unchecked.

DeMarte didn’t work with a regular partner. He didn’t really need to. He worked best alone. But sometimes he found himself partnered with the newer detectives when their regular partners were unavailable, either sick or on vacation or whatever. DeMarte didn’t take sick days (he had an incredible constitution) and he didn’t like to take vacations, but Chief Del Marco insisted. She said the city was tired of paying him out on both sick days and vacation, so she made him take his vacation days. And he did. He respected his Chief, even if he didn’t always agree with her.

When DeMarte worked with the newbie detectives, he did his best to impart his wisdom on them. Sure, their partners were probably fine showing them the ropes, but he was the best. Who couldn’t benefit from some knowledge bestowed upon them by the best detective in the city?

Detective Josh Carpenter was on vacation with his husband and kids, so Detective DeAndre DeMarte was paired up with Carpenter’s usual partner, Detective Vince Carthos. Carpenter was a competent enough of a detective, but even his best wasn’t as good as DeMarte’s average. And Carpenter wasn’t even at his best most of the time, especially in the last year. Carthos was practically starved for some decent guidance.

So far, though, DeMarte’s guidance had only be theoretical and offered up as advice; they hadn’t had a single death case that week for practical application and he only had a week left to educate the young detective. There was only so much one could learn doing follow-ups and filing.

“You see,” DeMarte went on, determined to cram as much learning as possible into the short time he had with Carthos, “it’s important to keep an open mind during your investigations. You can’t get tied into one theory. That’s how you get yourself in trouble. If you only focus on one possibility, you miss the evidence you need that leads you to the truth.”

Detective Vince Carthos sat at his desk and nodded. He was focused on reading the report in front of him, but DeMarte knew he was listening. He was too hard to ignore.

DeMarte sat on the corner of Carthos’s messy desk and looked down at him.

“You know, you might benefit from better organization,” he said, looking over the disarray, trying not to judge the young man too harshly.

Carthos looked up at him. “How’s that?”

The man would look forever young with that round cherub face. He looked a little soft, too, but DeMarte thought that might be deceptive. Anyone would look soft wearing a rumpled, slightly too-big suit. DeMarte preferred to look pressed and well-tailored, preferably in something expensive and with a hat. He felt suspects and witnesses alike responded better to that impression. Besides, he’d never been able to pull off anything off-the-rack. It all hung wrong on him. His body wasn’t made for such average clothing.

“Look at your desk, son,” DeMarte said, gesturing to it. “It’s a mess. Do you even know what you have on it?”

“Yeah. Most of it.”

DeMarte clucked his tongue and shook his head.

“See, that’s not good enough. You need to know what every scrap of paper is. You have to keep all of that in your head and at your fingertips. Valuable seconds are wasted if you’re looking for something and you can’t tell one case from another, one lead from another. When you’re working on multiple cases, organization is the key.”

“Carpenter always tells me there’s no real right way,” Carthos said. “Though he did tell me I needed to keep my notebook in better order. And I agreed with him on that. I can get a little sloppy there. But I know the system of my desk.”

DeMarte looked at the detritus covering the used wooden surface. He shook his head in disbelief. There was no way this was a system or any way to be a detective. It pained him to think that this detective was lost before he had a chance to save him. But DeMarte wasn’t one to quit, not even when it all seemed lost. He’d still put in his best effort with Carthos. It was possible that he might be able to salvage something out of the man and make him into at least a competent detective.

“Detective Carpenter is a decent detective. Very…knowledgeable,” DeMarte said. “He must have told you the importance of organization. There’s no way he could let something like this fly.”

“It gives him anxiety to look at my desk sometimes, yeah,” Carthos said with a grin. “But I can always find what he needs, so he doesn’t say too much about it. Besides, his desk can get just as unruly when we’re busy.” Carthos quickly added, “But he can always find what he needs, too. I think it’s important that the system work for the person. Not everyone can handle being so neat.”

“And what do you call this system?” DeMarte asked, wrinkling his nose.

Carthos surveyed his desk.

“It doesn’t have a name,” he said. “I’m not going to patent it.”

DeMarte laughed. “For the best, I think. You’d never be able to sell it.”

Carthos gave a strained smiled. One thing DeMarte had noticed about him was that he didn’t have the keenest sense of humor. Which was a shame. Carpenter could be quite a funny guy. He must have felt suffocated working with Carthos all the time.

“You know, you should really come over and check out my desk,” DeMarte said. They’d gone over a lot in the short time they’d been together. It’s not like DeMarte had run out of things to teach Carthos, but there was something demoralizing about needing to go over something as simple as how to properly keep a desk. “Not only do I have the patented ‘DeMarte System’, but it’s also so good that anyone can work it. Because you can’t overlook the importance of other people being able to find what they need on your desk. When someone is covering for you and needs to follow up on one of your cases-”

“DeMarte!”

DeMarte turned at the sound of his name and saw a uniform approaching at a hustle. He had a slip of paper in his hand.

“That’s Detective to you, Officer,” he said as he stood up, straightening his jacket.

“Sorry, sir,” the uniform said, not sounding very sorry. He handed the slip of paper to DeMarte. “Call from dispatch. Body in a garage over on Hollyhock Road. Lieutenant told me to give it to you.”

“Thank you, Officer,” DeMarte said, dismissing him. He looked at the slip of paper. Scribbled on it were some quick details: male, sixties, head wound, and the address. “Let’s go, Carthos.”

Detective DeMarte led his protégé out of the station and to his unmarked car, parked right up front. He had his game face on, his game attitude in place. It was all relaxed, easy-going DeMarte before; now he was serious.

Hollyhock Road had become notorious in the detectives’ room. The Winchester Harmon case the year before had earned them all (even DeMarte, much to his chagrin) a sound tongue lashing from Chief Del Marco about their credibility and their responsibility to the public and being made fools of because they weren’t observant enough or smart enough. She chewed out all of the detectives, but it had been Carpenter’s case. He was the one who botched it, looking at a suicide (an obvious suicide, if anyone asked DeMarte) like a homicide and wasting resources to investigate it like one. There was being thorough, and then there was being oblivious, and in the Winchester Harmon case, Carpenter had definitely been the latter. To his credit, Carpenter did solve a challenging suspicious death a few months later (a homicide staged to look like a suicide), but the damage to his reputation had already been done. DeMarte valued his own reputation more than Carpenter valued his, it seemed. And the example he set for his inexperienced partner during that case was pitiful. No wonder Chief Del Marco pulled Carthos to work on other cases whenever she got the chance. Trying to save the poor guy from further corruption.

He glanced over at Carthos as they pulled out of the police lot.

The Winchester Harmon case had been a disaster for the young detective. This one would be different.

Detective DeAndre DeMarte wouldn’t be fooled.

***

It’s the last season of Murderville and we’re going back to where it all began. Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and see how the whole thing wraps up.

December Writing Projects

Now that the joy that is NaNoWriMo is over, I’m going to switch my focus to some shorter pieces.

I’m going to attempt to write something for that anthology that I saw a couple of months ago and researched. The deadline is at the end of the month and in the olden days, that was totally doable for me, short story-wise.

I’m not exactly confident of my chances should I actually finish something suitable, but it won’t be a waste of time to give it a try.

In similar news, I’ve come across another anthology with a deadline in February that looks interesting. I may also start plotting a story suitable for that this month as well.

I think that between the holidays and being understaffed at the library for most of the month, this will be enough to keep me feeling productive while not overwhelming or stressing me out.

Because I’m tired of being overwhelmed and stressed out this year.

You know what’s not stressful? Book ’em, Danno. Episode 18 is available for you listening pleasure. Two fun episodes with lots of hired killers and fabulous guest stars. It’s the perfect way to chase away the holiday blues. Speaking of holidays, episode 19 should go live right around Christmas. And I’m sure it will be a gift! Please like, share, subscribe, force upon your friends and family, and otherwise show your love and devotion. It is so very appreciated.

Season 5 of Murderville is right around the corner and the promo is live for everyone now. So, if you’re not a patron, now is the perfect time to treat yourself and get in on the final season. $1 an episode lets you read. $2 an episode lets you read and gets you a sweet bonus every other month, like this month, which will go live on December 15th.

October Writing Projects

It’s October and we all know what that means. It’s time to get spooky, get creepy, and plan out our NaNoWriMo project.

Well, I got the first two.

I have no idea what I’m going to do for NaNo this year.

Normally, I at least know what project I’m going to work on, even if I haven’t thought about it very much. Sometimes I know months in advance what I plan to work on in November. This year…nada.

The most likely candidates are either a sequel to The Support Group Meets on Wednesday or this random idea I got for a young adult novel. (Fucking what? You don’t write YA.) Trouble is that I’m not particularly enthused about either and I’m not sure either one could carry me to 50,000 words.

Honestly, I’m not even sure I want to do NaNo this year. But I’m particularly stubborn about certain things and maintaining my streaks is one of them. I should at least attempt year 17.

In other, more positive news, I’ve been reading an anthology that’s related to the one that I’d like to submit a story for, provided I can come up with one that fits, and last month I managed to finish not one, but two entries for the 100 word story contest.

That little bit of progress is encouraging, even if it is most likely a wasted entry fee.

It’s been a while since I’ve wasted one, though.

You know what’s not a waste? Murderville. And the last season is coming up. On October 13th, patrons will get to read the preview story for the final tale, so become a patron now because you don’t want to miss it. $1 an episode lets you read. $2 an episode gets you a sweet bonus every other month, like the one going live on the 25th.

Also live is Episode 16 of Book ’em, Danno. Ain’t no rest for Five-O because of the wicked and Eric Braeden is a hypnotic man. Give it a listen while you’re waiting for Episode 17 to go live at the end of the month. And remember to share it with your friends, family, enemies, strangers, co-workers, acquaintances, that one guy from high school, and any other unsuspecting human.

September Projects

It seems like after March and April, the months have just flown by and I have very little to show for it when it comes to writing.

Writing has been hard for me the past few years and the pandemic did not help. Sorry, ‘Rona. I know you tried by giving me a month off work, but it turns out I couldn’t capitalize on that like I’d hoped/planned/wanted.

However, as slow as I’m working and as little as I’m working on, I still count progress as progress and accomplishments as accomplishments. I keep hoping these little bright spots will lead me to the light.

This month I should wrap up the first draft of Early Snow. It’s turned out to be a decent novella, I think.

And then I’m going to work on a couple of short projects.

As luck would have it, a contest and an anthology looking for submissions both crossed my path. The contest challenges folks to write a story in 100 words, which I used to do all the time when I was doing fandom drabbles. And the anthology is a themed horror affair, something I’ve always found myself gifted at. I don’t presently have ideas for either of them, but the contest deadline isn’t until October and the anthology submission deadline isn’t until December. I have faith that I will be able to come up with something for both of these before the month is out.

Sad that it feels like I’m overestimating myself.

The bad news is that Murderville: The Coldest Case has ended. The very good news is that patrons can get the eBook on September 15th. And it’s not too late for you to become a patron, too. There’s one season left of Murderville, so don’t wait. Become a patron now. $1 an episode lets you read and gets you the eBook. $2 an episode lets you read, gets you the ebook, and gets you a sweet bonus every other month.

Episode 15 of Book ’em, Danno is live and episode 16 will arrive at the end of the month. In the latest, Wo-Fat is back, and there’s some trouble with an uncooperative witness. Listen, rate, review, share, like, tell your friends, shove it in your family’s ears. Any support is appreciated. In other podcasting news, I’m back on Eventually Supertrain, chatting with Dan about Automan. Listen in. We’re delightful.

August Writing Projects

July was slightly productive, which was a nice ego boost. I managed at least a page a day on Early Snow all month (and some days more than a page). It’s looking more and more likely that it will be a novella rather than a novel.

I’ll continue with my page-a-day plan for August.

And, aside from podcasting (I’m back on Eventually Supertrain and this time I’m talking with Dan about the great and wonderful Automan…go listen…we’re delightful as always and the other short-lived shows and guests are swell, too), that’s pretty much it for the month.

Between some health issues that I was finally able to address at the end of the July (hey, it turns out that I have severe patellar tendonitis in both knees which requires physical therapy and my blood pressure situation is to the point of medication, oh boy) and some big changes happening at my day job (I’m finishing up a huge conversion project while taking on some new responsibilities because a co-worker is leaving), I simply don’t have the energy for much else right now.

Believe me, no one is more disappointed than I am.

Boy, 2020 is some kind of thing, ain’t it?

You know what’s a good thing, though? Murderville: The Coldest Case and the last episode of the season goes live on August 11th. And even though it’s the end, it’s still not too late to become a patron. $1 an episode let’s you read, $2 an episode gets you a bonus every other month and this month it just happens to be the cryptic teaser for the next -and last- season of Murderville, which goes live on the 25th. Become a patron and see how it all ends.

Episode 15 of Book ’em, Danno should be up at the end of the month, but Episode 14 and the beginning of Season 2 of Hawaii Five-O is live and ready for your ears. Remember that liking, sharing, rating, reviewing, retweeting, and forcefully suggesting it to your friends is love and very much appreciated.

Murderville: The Coldest Case–Episode 6

Conclusions, Dead Ends, and a Fourth Date

Christabelle couldn’t sleep.

It wasn’t unusual. Keeping odd hours for so many years had firmly disrupted her circadian rhythms. The nights when she wasn’t required to stay up until the wee hours of the morning following some creep cheating on his wife or some floozy cheating on her husband (how she’d never been hired for a cheating case for a same-sex couple, she didn’t know), Christabelle found herself either struggling to make herself go to sleep or to entertain herself until she was tired enough to go to bed.

Tonight, it wasn’t only her inconsistent schedule keeping her awake. It was also Rena. More specifically, Rena’s kiss. Even more specifically, Christabelle was performing great feats of mental strength trying NOT to think about it. Because to think about it was to ruminate about it and to ruminate about it was pointless and would no doubt lead her to getting her hopes up, and that was already a losing battle. She didn’t need to lose that battle faster. Christabelle had already made up her mind that the kiss was part of Rena’s gag with the love stone she’d given her, and it ultimately meant nothing.

To keep her mind off of her inevitable heartbreak, Christabelle researched the four teenagers last seen with Marybeth Cooley. The internet being the wonderful thing that it was, she found the fates of the three boys without much trouble.

They were all dead.

Dwight Harmon, successful businessman, died a few years back, apparently suffering from a heart attack and drowning in his hot tub. The insinuation was he had become overstimulated during a “party”. That seemed a little tame for Murderville and a little suspicious that someone could so easily drown with so many people in proximity. It was a hot tub, not the ocean. A little research into this “party” dug up rumors that Dwight Harmon was a multi-millionaire known for his orgies featuring the biggest names in the higher social circles, including his younger brother Winchester Harmon, the man found dead on Pam and Drew Bendixen’s front step the previous year. Dwight Harmon’s heart attack occurred while he was having sex with a woman in his hot tub and he drowned when she left to get help from someone inside. Christabelle supposed it wasn’t easy to attract attention at an orgy, people being very involved in their activities and all. That sounded closer to the truth than what was printed in the paper.

Butch Taylor, another successful Munsterville businessman, died the same year as Winchester Harmon in a bizarre electrocution incident. In a fight with this fourth wife, Butch decided to cut her off from everything. Literally. After she stormed out in a dramatic huff, Butch proceeded to go down to the basement intent on cutting the power. Instead of turning it off with the switch, he took a pair of gardening sheer and cut into the wires. Instant fried millionaire. It was only pure luck that the house didn’t catch on fire. His wife came home hours later and found him, his corpse still smoking a little. Christabelle could only imagine the smell.

In another familial twist, Butch Taylor’s nephew Simon Sidney had recently been murdered by his second wife and a business rival. And in another neighborhood twist, Christabelle’s neighbor across the street, Velvet Li, found the body, along with her fellow security guard Otis Gorski, who, along with his cousins, also found Marybeth Cooley.

Christabelle was beginning to suspect that everyone in town was connected to this case in some way.

Jimmie DuPage died out at the End Of. He shot himself in the head when he was twenty-one. A routine sweep of the area found his body. No foul play was suspected. Like many of the suicides that happen out there, he didn’t leave a note. The speculation, though, was that he killed himself to avoid a prison sentence for manslaughter after killing a man in a bar fight. Christabelle had some doubts. It all felt a little too neat. But there was nothing that overtly suggested that his death connected to Marybeth Cooley’s murder, either.

So, Christabelle pressed on and ran straight into a brick wall.

Nannette Sullivan seemed to have disappeared.

***

It turns out the coldest case in Munsterville is the coldest for a reason. It’s a tough one to crack. Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and read all about it.

Murderville: The Coldest Case–Episode 5

Talking to the Wyliss Boys

Christabelle met the Windoms in the same diner she’d met them before and ordered the same breakfast plate. They wore the same sunglasses and cast the same furtive glances.

Things changed after Christabelle gave them her findings.

“They’re swingers,” she said bluntly.

Mr. Windom stared at her, his dark sunglasses masking some of his reaction. Mrs. Windom, though, whipped off her sunglasses in shock, revealing wide, blue eyes.

“Excuse me?”

“Swingers, not drug dealers,” Christabelle said, adding a little salt to her hash browns. “The people coming and going? Are doing it in the literal sense. They’re all folks that are part of the lifestyle.”

“Oh my God,” Mr. Windom said, sounding like a married couple having an open sexual relationship with other married couples was somehow worse than running a drug den.

Mrs. Windom nearly poked her own eye out in her haste to put her sunglasses on.

“I see,” she said. “Well. That’s very…um…yes, well…I…” She elbowed her husband. “Pay Ms. Calder, so we can go.”

Mr. Windom scrambled for his checkbook and quickly dashed off Christabelle’s fee.

“Thank you so much for your help, Ms. Calder,” Mrs. Windom said. She stood up too fast and hit the table, jostling it and nearly upsetting Christabelle’s orange juice.

Christabelle took the offered check, thanked them, and watched the couple all but run out of the diner having learned a valuable lesson about being nosy.

After finishing her leisurely late breakfast and running to the bank, she arrived home just before noon. She pulled into her driveway and sat there for a minute, debating. It was probably late enough that Lister McKinney was awake, but early enough that he couldn’t have gotten too deep into the day’s dirty thirty. Christabelle decided that now was as good as time as any to talk to him.

Even though it was January, even though there was snow, even though that day there was a windchill in the teens, Lister McKinney was still sitting in a lawn chair in his garage with the door wide open. Christabelle walked down the plowed street and up Lister’s shoveled driveway, a fact that tickled Christabelle considering Lister probably hadn’t his license in two decades, if not more.

“Lister,” Christabelle called about halfway up the driveway.

Lister, sitting in his lawn chair, contemplating his can of beer, looked up, recognized Christabelle, and gave her a wave.

“Whatcha doin’ over here, mystery neighbor?” Lister asked with a grin. Christabelle smiled and shook her head. She’d lived in her house on the other side of Raul Santos for quite a while before a block party encouraged her to meet her neighbors (even though she knew who they all were, being naturally nosy on top of being a private investigator). It was only then that she realized just how familiar everyone in the neighborhood was with each other and how she stood out as a mysterious presence because she’d never introduced herself, a fact that until then she hadn’t regarded as strange since her previous neighborhoods hadn’t been so well-connected.

“Come to chew a little fat with you, Lister,” Christabelle said, surprised at how warm the garage was even with the door wide open. She spotted two space heaters going full blast, one of which was a few feet behind Lister’s chair, and realized that’s how Lister was able to drink out here in the dead of winter without suffering from frostbite.

“Yeah, what kind of fat you want to chew?” He reached into the bright orange cooler beside him and pulled out a can of beer, holding it out to Christabelle. She took it but didn’t open it.

“I wanted to talk to you about Marybeth Cooley,” she said.

Lister froze, the air temperature in the garage dropping lower than the windchill outside.

“Now, why would you want to be talking about that?” he asked.

***

Turns out only one of the Wyliss boys does much talking. But which one? Become a patron for as little as $1 an episode and find out.

May Writing Projects

Oh, hey, am I still revising The Support Group Meets on Wednesday? You bet I am.

Unfortunately, my hopes of getting it done last month weren’t realized. I fell about 30 pages short of finished (and it’s likely more because this part of the novel requires a lot of rewriting). Productivity has been hard to come by since the pandemic started here and I ended up being incredibly busy with library and podcasting projects during the last couple weeks of April. Which meant that revising took a bit of a backseat. I might have worked on it most days, but many of those days I only managed to get a few pages done.

Such is the way life is right now.

The goal is to finish revising it this month, which I should get do.

(Please, Universe, let me get it done.)

And if I happen to get it done before the month is out…I have no idea what I’m going to work on next. It’s not that I’m hurting for projects. One might say that I have too many waiting for something to happen. But, I can’t deny that right now motivation is in short supply.

I guess I’ll just play it by ear, as they say.

Good thing we have Murderville: The Coldest Case to keep us happy. Episode 5 goes live on May 12th. $1 an episode let’s you read. $2 an episode gets you a sweet bonus every other month. Become a patron and get some guaranteed entertainment.

And I always seem to have the motivation to produce episodes of Book ’em, Danno. Episode 13 covering the last episode of season 1 will go live at the end of the month, but in the meantime, check out episode 12, which covered “Not That Much Different” and “Six Kilos”. Steve undercover is a joy not to be missed.