Murderville: Rounds of Luck- Episode 1

Garbage Man

Kobel Industries was one of the big companies in Munsterville that employed a lot of people, bought a lot of real estate, and diversified often. Because of that kind of expansion, Kobel Industries had a lot of stuff that had no immediate function. They also had a lot of properties that had no immediate uses. But both the properties and the stuff needed to be protected from those without property and stuff.

That’s how Velvet Li made her living, by working as a security guard at one of Kobel Industries’ miscellaneous warehouses.

It wasn’t a glamourous job, by far, and certainly wasn’t anything that Velvet had set out to do when she graduated high school, but it was a job she enjoyed, weirdly enough. Maybe because the third shift suited her night owl tendencies. Maybe because it really wasn’t too stressful of a job since nothing ever happened. Maybe because her partner for the last five years was Otis Gorski, a man so odd that Velvet couldn’t help but enjoy his company. Whatever the reason (Velvet suspected it was a combination of all three), the job got her through four years of college. When she graduated, she never left the warehouse to pursue her chosen career, much to the chagrin of her parents, who didn’t even like her chosen career of event planner anyway. But somehow being a security guard was considered worse. Maybe Velvet could be doing so much more with her life (definitely, according to her parents), but she was happy where she was. She made enough money to buy a house in sort of a less-than neighborhood, but she loved the neighbors, even if dead people did pop up on their front steps now and then.

Such was the charm of Murderville.

The warehouse Velvet worked at didn’t have an official name. None of the Kobel warehouses did, as far as she knew. The large metal and brick square building sat a half a mile off of Rockrine Road on the south side of Lake Munster, so that’s what people in town called it. The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road. It was one of the older, more secluded warehouses, connected to the main drag by a long lane, the whole building surrounded by trees, the building’s original purpose lost to time. Most of the Kobel warehouses were in the industrial slum area that contained many of the factories and warehouses of the Munsterville businessfolk, making The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road feel even more isolated.

Velvet Li arrived for her shift about fifteen minutes early as usual. She drove down the lane to the small, seldom-if-ever used front lot, taking an alley down the east side of the building to the back. The huge rear parking lot behind the building was lit by a single pole near the backdoor which was framed by two massive, closed rolling doors on either side. Three cars huddled around the light like children out after dark. Velvet parked in the last free space next to the light, Otis’s little hatchback sitting on the other side. Velvet liked to be early; Otis liked to be earlier.

Velvet locked her cellphone and her purse in the glove compartment. Unless it was that time of the month, Velvet didn’t bother bringing her purse inside. And there was a strict rule keeping cell phones out of the building. Why? No reasonable explanation had ever been offered. The best reason that HR could come up with was it was unprofessional to have a personal cell phone with you while on duty. There were phones in the building if a call needed to be made, but only in the case of an emergency and no personal phone calls, please. Velvet suspected that it was because Manfred Kobel was a soulless, controlling man. At least, that was the vibe he gave her every time she had the misfortune of being in his presence. But nobody had minded when she brought her homework to her shifts while she was in college, so Velvet wasn’t too put out about leaving her cell phone in the car.

Dressed in her official navy polo with the Kobel Industries logo on the left breast, her black slacks well worn and comfortable, her black shoes cushy and sensible due to the rounds she walked, her black Kobel jacket keeping out the chill autumn air somewhat, her radio clipped to her belt, Velvet locked her car and walked to the building looking professional for an audience of no one. The parking lot was empty except for her and the cars, and if Cami or Trey were watching the monitor for the backdoor camera, they likely wouldn’t have been too impressed by the familiar sight of her round, Black self.

Velvet unlocked the door with her key (the set contained one for the backdoor, one for the office that no one used, and one for the security room) and went inside, locking the door behind her before clipping the keys to her belt loop. There was no alarm system at this warehouse. If there had been, Velvet wouldn’t have a job. At least, that’s what Mr. Kobel said. He’d told the press multiple times over the years that he preferred to employ real humans to watch after his properties and security cameras were all the technology they needed to do it. For a businessman at the forefront of industry in Munsterville, his own feelings towards technological advancement stopped somewhere in the early 1990s. Velvet suspected it was because the man found more satisfaction in firing employees rather than replacing machines, but nobody asked her about that, so she kept it to herself.

Door secured, Velvet turned and entered the maze.

Most of what The Kobel Warehouse Off Rockrine Road contained was miscellaneous things acquired by Kobel Industries for reasons that didn’t have much immediate use. In the five years that Velvet had worked security here, she’d seen plenty of stuff brought in, but couldn’t remember a single thing being taken out. Worse, when some new pallet or box or whatsit was brought in, it was just that. Brought in and left at the nearest empty space. There was no system of organization, no attempt at neatness. Instead, the pile up over the years had created a maze of boxes and pallets and crates, some stacked over ten feet high, some only waist high to Velvet. The disorganization drove her crazy some nights when she walked her rounds and she fantasized about how she would go about organizing the mess she guarded. Most of the time, though, she ignored it and walked the maze to the security office like she was going on an adventure: the mundane adventure of adulthood and collecting a paycheck.

If it weren’t for Otis Gorski, she wouldn’t have any fun at all.

The warehouse maze was counterintuitive because its first turn took folks in the opposite direction of the security office. For a maze it made perfect sense, but not for a workplace that was not supposed to be a maze. It also made for an interesting experience for anyone visiting the warehouse, including Mr. Kobel. The front door was never used, at least on the night shift (Velvet didn’t even have a key for it), so everyone came in through the backdoor. The security escort was so visitors didn’t get lost.

Velvet took the first turn, then the second, and then stopped short.

The path she’d walked multiple times a shift had been altered. Not by much, but something new had been shoved in, jutting into the path, narrowing it by two or three feet, not that the path had been that wide to begin with.

“It’s a good thing that side door is sealed,” Velvet muttered, annoyed. “There’s no getting to it now.”

Velvet skirted around the new bulk, wondering what it was. She took the next turn, her footsteps echoing inconsistently around her. Some nights she didn’t take much notice of how creepy walking this labyrinth was, with its blind corners and uneven stacking and alternate paths. Other nights, she did, and she found herself hurrying and looking around like she was about to be attacked by an unseen monster lurking behind one of the stacked pallets.

And still other nights, like tonight, Velvet just had the vague feeling of being watched, no doubt thanks to the security cameras she knew were placed at various points around the warehouse. There were blind spots, that’s why they did rounds, but they never figured into the weird, spidery feeling of eyes following her movements.

At the opposite end of the warehouse, at the end of the maze, sat the security room, the cheese for the uniforms in this rat race. Velvet ducked inside quickly to shed herself of the feeling of being watched.

Cami and Trey sat at the desk, watching the rows of monitors mounted on the wall. Between the two of them, they’d only been working at this warehouse for less than two years and as a team for barely one. They’d only started the middle shift three months before and Velvet had yet to bother learning their last names. Turnover tended to be high. Except for her and Otis, who currently stood behind the younger, seated security guards, arms crossed, sour, judgmental look on his face.

Otis Gorski had only ever been a security guard, but to look at his old, white, wiry frame, the wrinkles positively etched around his eyes and mouth, his thinning, grey, buzzcut hair, it would be easy to mistake him for retired military or law enforcement. He just had that no-nonsense feel about him that made people automatically mind themselves. Velvet, however, knew the truth. Not that being only a security guard diminished Otis in her respect any; it just changed the coloring of the stories he liked to tell her.

“Good evening,” Velvet said cheerfully as she shut the door behind her.

Otis grunted in acknowledgment.

“Hey, Velvet,” Cami said.

“Anything happening?” she asked.

“Never,” Trey said.

“It’s that kind of attitude that will catch you off guard,” Otis said, his voice a mix of gravel and age. “You get used to the routine of the job and you’ll miss something happening right in front of your own face. You’ll never see it coming. And do you know what happens then?”

Cami and Trey exchanged looks, unsure of what to say. Velvet was unsure of what to say, too, but that was only because the choices were too numerous to narrow down. Gunshot to the head, knife to the throat, kick to the groin, impalement, with Otis, the sky wasn’t even the limit.

“You’re clobbered with a blunt object and left for dead, only you don’t die. You just spend the rest of your days watching game shows and sipping apple sauce through a straw.”

Cami and Trey looked appalled. Velvet rolled her eyes.

“A head injury isn’t a requirement for that, Otis,” she said.

If Cami or Trey had said it, Otis would have snapped on them so hard a drill sergeant would have saluted. But Velvet said it, so he just shook his head, like she had no idea of the harshness and complexities of a world that had no place for a joke.

On that awkward note, Cami and Trey wrapped up their shift, standing and grabbing their jackets from the back of their chairs. Everyone left the security room so they could either clock out or clock in via the old-fashioned punch clock on the wall next to the door. Back inside, Velvet and Otis took Cami and Trey’s places at the security desk, their eyes on the monitors, watching as their co-workers worked their way through the maze and out of the building, crossing the parking lot to their cars and driving away.

The dark grey walls of the security room dimmed the fluorescent overhead, absorbing the light and making the room feel more like a cave. The scuffed tile was peeling in places and there was a sizeable divot in the floor next to the door; Velvet, like the other security guards, had conditioned herself to step over it to avoid the risk of a twisted ankle. The job required them to walk rounds and it was too much walking to be hobbling. On Otis’s side of the desk was the computer that ran the surveillance system, which replaced the banks of VCRs that used to be on the wall opposite the door. On Velvet’s side of the desk was the pointless paperwork they were required to fill out every shift. Behind them, on a little table, was a coffee pot that never seemed to have coffee in it, and two flashlights. Next to the table was a mini-fridge that most likely held Otis’s lunch. Velvet would have her lunch delivered from the 24-hour diner that technically didn’t deliver, but she had a friend who worked there and took a break at the same time. She was really looking forward to that patty melt and found her mind wandering to it while she watched the monitors mounted on the wall above the desk.

And that’s how Velvet and Otis’s shift began, as normal as any other. For the first couple of hours, they followed their routine. Otis walked the first round and Velvet walked the second, the two of them taking a flashlight for the outside portion, spending the time in between keeping an eye on the monitors while Otis regaled Velvet with his security guard tales and Velvet poked Otis with a verbal stick. It was the reason Velvet loved her job so much. It was easy, and Otis was great entertainment.

Around midnight, something on one of the monitors caught Velvet’s eye.

###

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September Writing Projects

Some good news on the Murderville front. Season 2 has come to a successful close and I hope all of my patrons enjoyed it. I also finished writing the first draft of Murderville Season 3. It’s a damn mess and it’s going to need a lot of work and that’s what I’m going to focus on this month.

Last month I also revised and polished the Season 3 preview story. Normally, I’d put that out next month, but until I get a good handle on where I’m at with Season 3, I can’t commit to that. Unless I’m sure that I can have Season 3 ready to roll on time, I don’t want to get ahead of myself with the previews and such.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that the day job is no more. Due to various reasons (some of which I may detail in another post), it didn’t work out, so I’m back to where I was at the beginning of May. In theory, I should be able to play catch up this month and put everything Murderville-related back on schedule. But again, I don’t want to commit to anything considering I’ve basically been disappointing if not everyone, then at least myself all summer with my ability to live up to my commitments. It’s been a very frustrating season for me.

But, it’s not frustrating for my patrons because the ebook of Murderville: The End Of comes out this month. Become a patron now and get in on this sweet deal.

Murderville: The End Of- Episode 7

The Secrets of Sisters

Lu stood on the stoop waiting for Merry Miller to answer the door.

She had no need to be there, no real right to be there, and yet, Lu had questions and she wanted those questions answered.  No doubt Josh wouldn’t be thrilled about her snooping, but if Josh could deal with Nico’s inability to put his underwear in a laundry basket, instead throwing it all over the floor (and the man had the gall to criticize her bathroom habits from twenty years ago), then he could surely deal with his devoted and caring sister-in-law following up on a lead and helping him out on a case that meant a whole hell of a lot to both of their careers.

Merry Miller worked from home and Lu should have called ahead to both make sure that Miss Miller was there and to let her know that she was coming, but Lu didn’t have her number and didn’t have the patience at the moment to track it down in such a way that Josh wouldn’t know about it.

Merry Miller opened the door, looking more than a little surprised to see Lu.  Miss Miller was dressed much like she had been the first time Lu met her: she wore a brightly printed dress and matching lipstick.  Her blonde hair was down today, though, falling in natural waves around her shoulders.  Lu wondered why this super cute, bubbly woman was wasting her time with married men when she could have her pick of the singles.  But then Lu remembered that it had been only one married man and this woman’s relationship status was none of her damn business.

“Hi, Miss Miller,” Lu said, smiling brightly, hoping that the black polo shirt with the coroner’s office logo on the breast wasn’t too alarming.  “I don’t know if you remember me from the other day.  I’m Lu Jones.  I’m a death investigator.  I was here with Detective Carpenter.”

“Oh, yes!  Of course,” Miss Miller said and she gave a little laugh that sounded a bit relieved.  “I saw the shirt and thought something else awful had happened.”

Lu smiled tightly.  “Yeah, I get that a lot.  Do you mind if I come in?  I have a couple of questions I’d like to ask you.”

“About Starla?”  Lu nodded and Miss Miller stepped aside.  “Of course.  Come in, come in.”

She led Lu back into her living room, back to her sofa, and offered her a drink.  This time Lu did accept a glass of iced tea.  She thought maybe this would make them both more relaxed.  It was different without Josh here, leading things.  Now it was Lu’s turn to ask all of the right questions.  The sudden concern that she might ask the wrong thing or say the wrong thing crawled up Lu’s spine and perched on her shoulder like a gargoyle.  If she screwed this up for Josh…

Miss Miller came into the living room carrying two glasses of iced tea and she handed one to Lu before sitting down on the loveseat.

“Have you found anything out about who might have killed Starla?” Miss Miller asked, hopeful.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Lu said, watching Miss Miller’s face fall.  She quickly added, “But Detective Carpenter has been working diligently on the case, interviewing people.  It’s really only a matter of time.”

Miss Miller nodded and Lu inwardly cringed.  The last thing she needed to be doing was giving this woman any kind of false hope.  What the hell possessed her to do this again?  Lu took a big gulp of her tea before proceeding.

###

Will this case twist to the breaking point? Check out Murderville or Patreon to find out!

Murderville: The End Of- Episode 6

Upstairs, Downstairs

Detective Josh Carpenter sat across the table from Calvin and Audrey Connolly and the three of them tried to look inconspicuous.  The only time that Josh could interview the couple together was during their lunch breaks.  Audrey Connolly, of course, worked at the coroner’s office.  Calvin Connolly was a high school math teacher and since the beginning of a new school year was looming, he was busy prepping.  Josh had considered interviewing them separately, but decided to interview them as a couple first.  He wanted to gauge how they interacted during questioning knowing what he knew.  So, the meeting at the McDonald’s during the lunch rush on Monday was the best way to go.  Well, not the best, but the option Josh decided was best out of the limited, not-so-great options.  Thankfully, most of the folks in Munsterville that bothered to get out of their cars to come inside the fast food joint were just grabbing their lunch to-go.

“I did have a date with Starla,” Calvin Connolly said and practically flinched at the sound of the woman’s name coming out of his mouth.  Next to him, Audrey Connolly sat stone-faced, a good gap of physical distance between them in the booth.  “’For the night she was…was murdered.”  He added quickly, emphatically, “But I cancelled it.  Days before.  I cancelled it.”

“Why did you cancel it?” Josh asked, making a note in his notebook.  He’d already known that Calvin Connolly was the cancelled date thanks to Merry Miller’s code key.  It was the why that currently eluded him.  Starla James made no note of that.

“Because…” Mr. Connolly sighed heavily, “because Audrey found out about it.”

“And how long had you been seeing Miss James?” Josh asked, watching the husband squirm and the wife imitate a statue.

“Only a few months,” he said.  “We’d only had sex a couple of times.  Honest.”

“I see,” Josh said, making a note of the duration of the affair, but not of the number of times Mr. Connolly claimed to have had sex with the victim.  That was clearly meant for his wife to hear.  “And when did Mrs. Connolly find out about the affair?”

Now, Audrey Connolly did move, a slight flinch at her name and the word “affair” in the same sentence.

“Last week.  Monday or Tuesday, I think.  Days before I was supposed to see Starla.  She found a text from her on my phone and confronted me.  I cancelled my date with Starla right then.,” Mr. Connolly said, sounding sullen and remorseful.  Josh wondered if it was because he’d hurt his wife by having an affair or because she found out.  “That’s why we were out of town this past weekend.  We were trying to work on our marriage.”

Mrs. Connolly made a little noise as if to suggest that the weekend hadn’t been all that successful.

“And when did you leave for this weekend retreat of yours?” Josh asked.

“Friday evening,” Mr. Connolly said hurriedly.  He looked at his wife for confirmation of that.  “Right?  Right after you got off of work.  You had to work late so we left late.  Right?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Connolly said, sounding reluctant to speak at all.  “We left Friday after I got off of work.  It was around seven-thirty.”

“And you work at the coroner’s office, correct?” Josh asked.

“I work for the coroner’s administration,” Audrey Connolly corrected.  “Yes.  I work upstairs.  I’m their public relations consultant.”

“I see,” Josh said and he made a show of flipping through his notebook as though he were looking for a piece of information that wasn’t already cued up in his head.  “So, you would have been at work when Starla James was discovered and brought in for examination and autopsy.”

Audrey Connolly shifted her weight in the booth a little.

“Yes.  Like I said.  I work upstairs.”

“Why were you working overtime that day?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Mrs. Connolly snapped.

Josh stared at her hard.  She managed to stare back with equal intensity for a few seconds before she shifted in her seat again, nervous.  That might work on her husband, but Josh was immune to it.  Except from his own husband.

“Mrs. Connolly, I’m investigating a homicide,” Josh said, business-like and professional with just a touch of no-nonsense.  “I would appreciate your cooperation in answering my questions.  Why were you working overtime that day?”

Mrs. Connolly glanced at her husband.  “I had to stay late due to a late-breaking development that needed to be addressed.”

Josh nodded at her.  “From my understanding, it was due to the results of Miss James’s autopsy.”

Mr. Connolly looked at his wife with wide eyes.  She never took her eyes from Josh, her look hardening.

###

Time is running out for Lu and Josh to solve the case. Check out Murderville and Patreon to keep up with their ticking clock!

June Writing Projects

Last month was all about the Patreon. I wrote the outline for season 3 of Murderville and wrote the first draft of the season 3 preview story. I also came up with an idea to be a little more active on my Patreon, but I’m still working out those kinks. I’m hoping to have something going before the end of season 2.

This month it’s going to be all novellas all the time.

I’m going to write the first draft of season 3 of Murderville.

I’m also going to be doing a little writer thrill seeking again.

I’m going to try to rewrite The Coop Run as a novella for submission in July. Yeah, not a lot of time to get it in order, but I have already started by reading over the original first draft, chopping it up, and making notes on what I need to write fresh. In the end, even if nothing comes of the submission in terms of actually getting published, I think the story will be better off. This first draft is a mess. There are many story elements that I like, but they do not work together as is. What I’ll take out, I’ll save. I happen to like the crew of the Nina Kitt and I wouldn’t mind exploring their world in other stories.

Speaking of that, even if nothing comes of the submission in terms of actually getting published, I will at least be able to say that I wrote an honest to goodness sci-fi novella. It’s not going to be the hardest of sci-fi, but dammit, it will be set in space on a spaceship and that’s a huge step into a new genre for me.

That counts for something.

There’s only 3 episodes left of Murdeville: The End Of. Episode 6 goes live on June 12th. $1 an episode lets you read;  $2 an episode lets you read AND you get some really nifty fun bonuses every other month, like the one that’s dropping June 26th. It’s never too late to become a patron!

Murderville: The End Of- Episode 5

The Mistress’s Men

Lu really wanted to spend her entire shift tagging along with Josh, watching him be a detective, getting elbowed in the ribs for not keeping her word about not asking any questions or saying anything sarcastic, but unfortunately, she did have work to do.

A whole pile of it was waiting on her desk.

“You work weekends now?” Melanie asked as she strolled into the office.

The death investigator’s office was situated down the hall from the autopsy room.  It had two desks, two phones, several filing cabinets, a couple of chairs, a police scanner, a coffee pot, and a television.  The official break room was on the second floor, but most everyone just hung out in the death investigator’s office because it was closer.

Melanie poured herself a cup of coffee.

“Jerome is off and someone had to cover,” Lu said, sitting down at her desk, looking at the stack of files in the center of it not unlike she might look at pile of dog shit on her lawn.  And Lu didn’t own a dog.  She gestured at them, careful not to touch them.  “Is this my pain?”

“Yep,” Melanie said, reading her look.  “Those are the files that upstairs,” Melanie looked up, “wants reviewed.  Dr. Pascal was ranting about it last night.  I thought his head was going to pop off.”

“He’s got about as much skin in this audit as I do.”

“Neither one of you have anything to worry about,” Melanie said, giving Lu a pat on the shoulder.  “You two are the best at your jobs.  Upstairs is crazy to think otherwise.”

Melanie sat down at the other desk, turning on the TV, but keeping the volume low.

Lu wanted to believe that Melanie was right, but just the fact that she was working for Jerome on a weekend because the city was too cheap to hire as many death investigators as they needed didn’t boost her confidence any.  Lu knew all too well that being good at your job didn’t meant that you weren’t expendable.

With a heavy sigh, Lu pulled the first file from the top of the pile and opened it up, looking for a mistake she knew that she hadn’t made.

###

Simon Sidney lived in a large house on the lakefront, only a few miles down the road from End Of, on Lake Shore Drive.  The house was practically a wall of windows on the side that faced the lake, which was no doubt picturesque most of the time, if you didn’t think about how many cars were probably at the bottom of Lake Munster.

Josh sat on the white couch in the white living room wondering why so many people with money insisted on white living rooms.

Simon Sidney was a handsome man in his sixties, his hair long gone silver, his age starting to show in his golfer’s physique.  His wife, Carlotta, was easily twenty years younger than he was and held up to a much different standard.  Her hair was bleached an unnatural blonde and it was clear by the lack of movement in her forehead that she’d had a round or twelve of Botox.  Her lips looked overly filled and her clothes were a size too small.

They sat on the couch opposite Josh, a low glass coffee table between the detective and the couple.  Simon Sidney sat on the couch, looking relaxed in his dress shirt and slacks.  Carlotta Sidney was perched next to her husband, right on the edge of the sofa.  Josh didn’t think she could relax in the dress she was wearing.

“Mr. Sidney,” Josh began, sparing a glance at his wife, “I need to know about your relationship with Starla James.”

“She was my mistress,” Simon Sidney said so bluntly that if the words had been an anvil, a cartoon coyote would have been flattened instantly in a comical way.

“One of your mistresses,” his wife patiently corrected and a second anvil dropped on that poor coyote’s head.

Josh nodded and quickly jotted down the unnecessary information into his notebook to hide his wide-eyed shock from the couple.

###

Keep up with Lu and Josh’s investigation! Check out Murderville or Patreon!