Archive for May, 2013

From the Editor’s Perch

May 31, 2013

REd Blue States

Zoning Government

Lately I’ve been reconsidering the Civil War.  By allowing the South to secede, Lincoln might have not only established a precedent for forestalling conflict, but could have spent the energies of his Administration considering just how this ‘secession’ might be structured – while also laying down a workable precedent for the conditions of a re-union.  Perhaps the Civil War could have been forestalled simply by issuing us all two passports and allowing its citizens to come and go as they pleased, voting with their feet.

After all, what are immigration and emigration but particular bits of secession and reunion?   And we allow it.  In fact, more and more, trading one country for another seems to be the coming trend.  A friend of a friend recently became a Danish citizen and says he ‘loves’ it.  He’s a big fan of their more socialized system.  Relations I have are thinking of relocating to Canada or New Zealand.  And there is still a large queue of people wanting to immigrate to the US.  Why should we think that one form of government will suit all?  And why shouldn’t people be allowed to leave anywhere, whenever they please?  And if we allow citizens to change governments, why shouldn’t we allow regions to do the same?  Mr. Lincoln, (why didn’t you) tear down this precedent!

The populations of the Red and Blue states currently seem separated most by whether they are urban or rural, large government or small government inclined.  Citizens nowadays seem to segregate politically around how much government they want.  What if we could zone government so that people desiring a high level of government involvement could move to the high government zoned regions?  And what if those who would like very low levels of government involvement could move to low government zoned regions?   And we could define low/high government involvement levels by their total/taxed base percentage of the GDP – the thinking being that no animal ever grows larger than the amount of food it eats.

We zone for industrial and retail business, high density condos/apartments, and residential.  We love having more than one cable supplier.  Wouldn’t we like options to our government supplier even more so?  And wouldn’t a healthy competition between government suppliers create better service?  And if governments of the future were forced to complete for citizens (and tax revenue), wouldn’t they naturally become more services oriented, less proscriptive and more enabling?

Certainly world corporations are choosing the governments they prefer, and shifting their incomes thereby.  Highly skilled citizens are already choosing the countries they prefer.  Why wait until we lose our most profitable companies and our most desired citizens?  Why not start government zoning right here and now within our own borders?

Currently, if we would like to change our government or laws to address a grievance, we can vote (least work and least influence), write a letter (more work), buttonhole a congressperson (harder still), find an activist group which wants the same thing and join forces with them (this is like getting married – same amount of work and not easy to find the right fit), or get elected (requires the most work and commitment – and closely resembles a death wish J ).

Even after doing all of this, a steep hill remains in getting your grievance resolved.  The Koch brothers with all their money and influence have yet to be able to shape the government as they would prefer it.  So what are your chances?

Currently our citizen appeal process is like having to change the entire management of Sears in order to get your dishwasher properly serviced.  Wouldn’t it be much easier if one were to just walk over to Rob’s Appliance Repair and hire him to do the job?  This is something zoned government might accomplish.  If a citizen does not like the way their government is performing, they would be able to move where the government services more suit them.  Moreover, a zone of government which is consistently losing citizenry might be much more willing to reconsider the services it offers and the taxes it demands.  And all the citizenry would have to do to feel their grievance met is to move: just enough trouble to eliminate quibblers is my thinking.

Zoning would solve the problem many citizens and corporations are now moving to other countries to solve – without the solution involving the problems of dealing with differing cultures and languages and laws and business practices.  Why not do something more in line with pleasing everyone and quit insisting that one size fit all?

Graphic taken from Google Images

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Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 24, 2013
Above the Campaign Cafe Bar.

Above the Campaign Cafe Bar.

Poetry Night

(Episode 52)

 Leland saw that the crowd was beginning to move into the back room.  So he paid their tab and while Agent Hailey went to ‘freshen up’, he told her he’d step into the bar and grab them some good stools.

Actually, the back room was larger than your normal bar.  This was because it was sometimes used to host dances and meetings.  Varnished wood lined the room.  There were hard liquor signs.  (Carmella said Peter felt neon beer signs were ‘cheap’, ‘looked rural’, and ‘lacked class’.)  There was a small stage also.  And that’s where Ralph was nervously toying with the amped microphone – with the usual “Test, test, testing…” and squeals.  Some folding chairs had been set up.

Above, and around, the bar there were the usual stuffed heads of the critters shot around the area, not excluding that of a pig and a Guernsey cow.  Those usually got a chuckle from whatever tourist happened by, and usually the extra drink order as the tourists discussed the stuffed heads and Kimmel further.

Leland saw two free seats and grabbed them, sitting in the one nearest a short, stocky fireplug of a guy finishing a shot of liquor.  They guy gave him no notice but immediately ordered another.  He looked up when it arrived and the bright bar light must have immediately initiated a sneeze…

“Oh fuck, oh goddamn, oh goddamn,” the man cried as he inhaled, and then,  “Fuuuuuuuckkkkkkk!”  As he sneezed, wincing and tearing up with the pain.  “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!”  He exclaimed gripping the bar till his pain ebbed.  “Shit,” he said, seeing that his whiskey had spilled.

“Gesundheit,” Leland offered, head turned.

“And fuck your gesundheit, too,” the man snarled, not glancing back.

Leland considered this, then nodded, and resumed his thoughts regarding Agent Hailey.  ‘Suzanne’, she had said.  Leland smiled.

Somewhere between the beer bubbles, Suzanne and he were in the tropics.  Leland’s fruity drink was ice cold.   A gently breeze played with Suzanne’s hair.  They were lying back on identical blue chaise loungers staring out at the sea with their weapons lying on the cabana table between them, cleaned and ready for use.

“You’re the Sheriff, aren’t you,” the fireplug demanded of the bar mirror.

Leland considered this.  In his pleasant thoughts both of them were reaching as if in synchronous motion for their weapons with a quick, clean sweep of their arms.

“Well, either you are, or you aren’t.”  The man shook his head with disgust.

Leland spoke back to the mirror.  “I’m guessing someone broke your ribs, by the way you reacted to that sneeze.  I’ve experienced a couple broken ribs myself, so I know what that feels like.  And I’m guessing you didn’t get kicked by a cow, since you don’t smell like manure and you’re pissed off.   Most people with their ribs broken and that are pissed off and aren’t yelling at a cow are talking to a Sheriff  because they had them broken by someone else, another human, because no one has ever asked me to arrest a cow.”  Leland sized the fellow up.  Aside from the spark plug tattoo on his arm, which Leland liked, he couldn’t say he cared for the fellow much.  The guy just made an awful first impression and Leland wouldn’t have minded giving him a jab in the ribcage himself.  “But this is just from my experience as your Sheriff.  I am assuming you’re from here.  How am I doing?”  Leland asked the mirror.

The man turned to face Leland.   “Nobody told me our Sheriff was a smartass.”

“That’s good to hear.” Leland nodded.  “What’s on your mind?”

“You’ve got a psycho loose in your town, in case you don’t know it.”

“I’d say that’s pretty much common knowledge.”  Leland nodded.

“I don’t mean that psycho.  I mean this psycho.”  The man pointed at his ribs.

“You’ve still got your head?”  Leland asked.

“Just barely!”  The man exclaimed.  “The guy had his knife out.”

“Uh?”  Leland became a little more interested.

“Yeah.  …Uh!”  The man acted as if Leland couldn’t hear.  Leland leaned back.  “Then that psycho shut his eyes, made a deep sigh – as if trying to restrain himself – and put it away.  I tell you.  I thought I was a goner.  I thought I was about to be dissected.  …Oh shit!”  The man exclaimed, thinking to stifle another sneeze.  But it was a false alarm.

“Where did this happen?” Leland asked, moving his beer so that the man wouldn’t sneeze into it.

“Right in back.  Here!”  The man had a way of phrasing everything as if the person he was speaking to were an idiot.

“In back of the restaurant?”

“You’re kind of slow aren’t you?  Yeah!  Right in back here, in back of the restaurant.”

“What were you doing back there?”

“What was I doing back there?  I’m the cook, for Godsakes!  Who do you think prepares your damned food?”

Leland just nodded.  “Okay.  I see.”  Leland smiled.  “It’s just that I’m really surprised someone would want to hurt someone as pleasant as yourself.  How did this come about?”  Leland folded his hands, all ears.

The man regarded Leland.

“You don’t give a fuck, do you?”  The man said loudly enough so that others turned.

“No,” Leland replied softly with an edge to his voice.  “Actually, I’m beginning to give it a real personal concern!”  He made as if to rearrange the man’s coat on the back of his chair with his right hand, while manipulating the man’s broken ribs with two stiff fingers of his left.

“Oooooh fuck, fuck, fuckkkkkkkk!”   The man squinted and cried, real tears.

People were turned and looking.  Leland put his arm even more protectively around the man’s shoulder, and spoke softly, as if consoling the man beneath the bar noise while handing him a paper napkin.  Leland smiled at the other patrons.

“Look,” Leland said quietly. “One of the rules of being a small town Sheriff is that if I take shit from any one, then I’m not the alpha dog.  And I have to be the alpha dog.   Otherwise, the whole social fabric is torn.  Do you understand this?”  Leland screwed his left index and middle finger into the man’s ribs.  “Total chaos ensues.”

“Yeeeessss!”  The man cried.

Leland patted him on the back.  “You’re a reasonable man.”

The man rose to leave.  Leland restrained him.

“There’s more,” Leland said, setting him back down.

Leland waited.  The man nodded.

“Now I’m going to ask you a few questions, and you’re going to give me clear answers.  Okay?”

“Okay.”

Leland asked.

The man replied.  “He’s another cook here!  I stepped out to take a break, and saw him sitting there.  I told him to get back to work.  He told me he didn’t want to.  So I got in his face a little.”

Leland nodded.  “And what happened then?”

“He…”  The man struggled with his hands to describe it.  “…had me on my back with my ribs stomped in before I could whistle.  I never even seen it coming.  The man’s as fast as shit.  And then, I was looking up at him with his knife out.”

“Okay,” Leland said.  “And then?”

“Then he decides to go back inside and continue cooking.  That’s it.  I picked myself up, and took the day off.  I went home.”

“So you run the kitchen?”

“Not anymore.” The man nodded to where another man was standing.  “HE does.”

Leland glanced that way.  “What do the others have to say about this?  It sounds like he’s new.”

“He is,” the man spoke into the bar mirror.  “That is, he was the newest, up until a while ago.  But no one says a word against him.  All that fella has to do is to mumble, at any of them, and the shit dribbles right outta their pants legs.”  The man asked for another shot.

Leland considered this.  “What about Carmella?”  He asked.  “I can’t see Carmella putting up with that.”

The man looked at Leland like he was hopeless.

“He’s the one who’s knocking her!”  The man replied.  “You can’t hear it?!  He regarded Leland with scorn.  “Are you deaf?”  He shook his head.

“I had my secretary close the window,” Leland replied.

“Yeah, I’d guess.”  The fellow replied, sullenly.  “You hear one of Carmella’s screams, I suppose you’d heard them all.  It can really grate on you, you know?  Especially when you’re trying to plan the next weeks work schedule.”

Leland regarded his beer for a while.  He had some more questions he could ask.  But frankly, he didn’t want to talk with the fellow any longer.  So he took his arm from around the man’s shoulders.  “You can go now.”  He nodded.

“Go.  Why do I have to go?  I’m staying right here.”

Leland gave him a look, and had to shake his head again at the man’s contrary obtuseness.

“You want to press charges?”  Leland asked, looking again at the fellow the man had indicated.

“Yeah!  After he’s dead and buried.”  The man laughed, speaking all this into the mirror and refusing to glance at the man again.   “At least six feet down and two weeks after.”

Leland sat ruminating on this.  And while he set there, the man didn’t leave.

“I guess this makes us friends now, then,” Leland said, seeing as how the fellow hadn’t left.

“I don’t have any friends,” the man replied.

“Okay,” Leland said, regarding his beer.  “That sounds about right.”

“Allies then,” Leland said, mulling it over.

Picture taken from Google Images

From the Editor’s Perch

May 20, 2013
Am I not speaking English?

Am I not speaking English?

Why You May Not Be Understood

“…actors learn sooner than most of us that in the genre known as real life, you have to present yourself, or play the part, if you want to be understood.”

  – David Thompson, the New Republic

Have you ever had someone say, “I can’t understand you.” and thought indignantly, ‘Well, if I were paying as little attention to what I am saying as you are – I would probably have trouble understanding whatever it is I am saying, myself!’

There is much more to be understood than being clear.  And there is much more to being interesting than being insightful.  And I can’t think of when I have been more struck by an observation, that by the one above, made recently by a movie critic, quite in passing.

The ramifications of the quote above are boggling, really, if you are anything like me, and have struggled with this difficulty your entire life.  What it seems to be saying, besides being like a trail marker pointing in innumerable fascinating directions, is that in order for people to understand you, you must have a personae or be in some manner group-identifiable.  That is, it’s not that you might be difficult to understand, in as much as you are difficult to ‘locate’.  In other words, there is much more to be understood than being clear.  And there is much more to being interesting than being insightful.  (Yes!  This is worth repeating.) To be understood, you must be locate-able in a meshwork of other understandings the object of your conversation possesses.

We all have experienced the all too common human habit to pigeonhole, which I suppose would be the corollary to the above observation.  We often hesitate to fully speak our minds, utter certain words, or even speak a small portion of our minds out of fear of being ‘pigeonholed’.  That is, being tossed into a group with whom we feel little in common or share little sympathy, merely because we both have made the same gaffe.  Forever after we fear (probably correctly) that, whoever it is has heard the gaffe will lump us either with this or that group, no matter.

Probably nowhere is the truth of the above critic’s observation more apparent than when trying to explain something to a teenager.  If you are a person of great estimation to the teenager, or are an important figure in a group of some estimation to a teenager, then whatever you say has a good chance of being warmly embraced as the God’s Truth whether it is absolute gibberish, or came spinning hot off old Beelzebub’s tongue.  However, if you are either a person or grouped with persons who the teenage has very little interest in being associated with (e.g. parents) then you will be hard pressed to convince them even that 1 plus 1 equals 2.  Let alone that speeding causes accidents; or that studying is a good way to prepare for exams, or that if they don’t get too bed on time at night, then in the morning they’ll be tired.

I imagine that the human mind, must deal with rather complex notions in much the same manner my computer handles my digitalized photos.  Each photo carries within its bit-package metadata, which explain just what it is and where it is located.  Without the metadata, my computer cannot ‘find’ my photograph.  And if my computer cannot locate my photograph, then it cannot realize my photograph.  This must be something like how the human mind works.  A person cannot realize your thought, until they can locate it.

So what happens to thoughts that are neither group attachable, or come without personae to their metadata?  Do they drift about until the common wisdom catches up with them?  I would guess this is very much the case.  As an example I would suggest the case of Einstein’s friend, the Mathematician Kurt Godel, who is considered “with Aristotle and Frege as one of the most significant logicians in human history.” – Wikipedia

Godel described himself as “anti-charismatic”.    Though quite accomplished, he was a figure of little influence among the early circle of thinkers he frequented in old Vienna.  Though he voiced much of what would later make him famous, little note was taken of it at the time – even among the very people vitally concerned and asking the very questions (over and over) he was softly voicing the answers to.

Photo pulled from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 19, 2013

Pie1

Leland’s Love Jitters

(Episode 51)

            Leland, meanwhile, was having his own problems.  He had tried asking Agent Hailey out.  He had begun, “Agent Hailey?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I was won…”

Leland looked at Agent Hailey.  She was all tired efficiency.   The poor thing was just worn out, he could tell, and probably held upright by her stiff uniform.  They’d all been pushing themselves pretty hard.

“Gee, you look bushed.  We need a night off,” he declared finally.

“Serial killers don’t take nights off,” Agent Hailey replied.

“Well, we don’t know that, do we?  And they certainly should,” Leland declared.

Agent Hailey just looked at him.  He thought she might be going to say something dismissive, but instead, she fell asleep.   Just as she opened her mouth, she fell directly forward, her head stuck in Leland’s stomach.  She was out like a light, snoring briskly.

 

            Leland rousted Ramey out of the cell and lay Agent Hailey on the bunk.  Then he turned off the light and shut the inside door so that she could get some uninterrupted sleep.

When Agent Hailey awoke it was about 6 pm, and Leland suggested they get some dinner at the Café “…across the way, and then maybe catch some of the local culture.  What do you think?”  He added, his eye twitching.

Agent Hailey looked around the darkened cell, and then at Sheriff Leland groggily, like a child being awakened in the depths of the night and told they had to leave right away for ‘somewhere’.  “Okay,” she mumbled.

But she wasn’t entirely present until around twenty minutes later when she studied, with some of her old presence, the crowd in the Café and the meatloaf, potatoes with homemade gravy which had been placed before her.  “What’s with the crowd?”  Agent Hailey asked.

“They’re gathering for Culture Night,” Leland responded.

“Sheriff Kelly.  May I call you ‘Leland’?”  Agent Hailey asked.

“I wish you would.”  Leland smiled.

“Leland,” Agent Hailey began again, licking some of the sleepy drool from her lips and taking a sip of coffee.”  “What the hell is ‘Culture Night’?”

“You remember the artist I told you about who painted the cell you just finished sleeping in?”

“Yes.”

“His name is Ralph Bunch.  His family has lived around here for ages.  But I’d say he’s the only ‘artist’ they’ve ever sprouted.  And his specialty is painting scenes from hereabouts, most notably cows and such.  And every month he has a showing.  He covers the walls of the bar in back.  And often recites a small poem or squib of something he’s composed while in the midst of creating his paintings.  So far I’d guess I’ve heard everything which could ever be said about Guernseys.  Each month I’d be willing to wager it, but each month, Ralph proves me wrong.”  Leland smiled.  “Actually,” he added, “it’s called Poetry Night.”  Leland spoke this latter with a lift of his fork and knife and a little flourish.

“That’s real romantic.”  Agent Hailey nodded, several times, as if thinking that – and her meatloaf with homemade gravy – over.

“Agent Hailey,” Leland set his silverware to ask.  “May I call you….?”

“Yes?”

“You’ve never told me your first name.”

“Agent.”

“Agent?”  Leland looked confused, and then a little disheartened.

“Hey!”  Agent Hailey poked him with her fork, and then stole a bite of his pie.  “May name is Suzanne.  Suzanne Hailey,” she said with a smile.  “You were right about their pie.  This is really good.”

She went for another bite as Leland pulled it away.

“Get your own.”  Leland smiled.

For the rest of the meal, they chattered like two high school seniors.

Photo from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 17, 2013
Ralph couldn't get the head right.

Ralph couldn’t get the head right.

Opening Night Jitters

(Episode 50)

            Ralph Bunch still didn’t feel quite himself Thursday morning as he hung his show in the back room of the Campaign Café.  He’d tried calling the Everlee’s to see if they could postpone the unveiling of the prize Guernsey till next month, but Cynthia Everlee had pleaded with him to try and finish.  It was to be for George Everlee’s 50th birthday and people were driving from some distance to attend.  So under deadline, Ralph was still painting as it hung on the wall.  He’d been up all night and the past day, and drinking coffee mixed with a little Three Feathers Whiskey to keep him from getting too jangled.  And he had kept at it but couldn’t get the heifer’s head at all right – in fact, not even close to right, and in the flurry was smearing and dribbling paint.

It was a matter of likeness – the lowest of all aesthetic indicators to an artist Ralph felt, but one of the highest to a patron.  It kept looking like a squirrel!  Or maybe it just ‘felt’ like a squirrel.  Ralph didn’t know.  Whatever it was, Ralph just couldn’t hit it on the sweet spot where everything felt done and…  well, Guernsey-like!  ‘For Pete’s sake!’ Ralph swore at himself, ‘You ought to know a Guernsey.’

Ralph walked backwards with his eyes squinted.   Then he walked forwards with his eyes squinted, and then extra wide open, and then squinted again and made an adjustment – all the while nibbling nuts.  Which was the problem really, ‘he really didn’t feel like himself’.  He rarely nibbled nuts.

Painting this way felt like trying to drive a narrow,  twisting alley, while seated sideways in the driver’s seat.  ‘Damn!’ if he just couldn’t  feel with his brush, where that heifer was anymore.  He was losing – or had lost – his ability to feel Guernsey.

With this realization came an electric bolt of fear running from his bottommost shakra right up his backbone causing him to splatter even more paint.   Because losing the ability to think Guernsey in dairy country could be devastating.  He was going to starve and then to die – cold and alone, maybe even sober.  Every unsuccessful artist realizes this.   “If if must happen, then it will happen.”  That’s what the Realists all say.   But Ralph Bunch had tried his best, until now, to ignore all the signs.

He sucked down some more coffee, shut his eyes tight, then opened them.  He must have painted 500 Guernseys  in this life; he gripped the brush  tightly.  He could do one more!

Painting by Ralph Bunch

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 15, 2013
Does this fellow know something?

Does this fellow know something?

The Muffin Lady’s Secret

(Episode 49)

            “Look at this,” Nancy nodded, when Sheriff Leland and Veterinarian Merlin stepped into the room.  “Here it is, in the Charleston Gazette, October 23rd, 1986”:

 

Girls Civics Club Bus Goes Missing for 6 Hours

 

A school bus carrying eight girls to the School Government and Civics Symposium went missing for 6 hours yesterday, school authorities have reported.  The girls were from the communities of Pinch and Elkview, West Virginia.  The twelve mile trip, which should have taken about one hour, took seven hours instead.  Neither the driver nor any of the students on the bus had any explanation, saying that they believed it had been just a normal drive.  They were a little puzzled they said, when they arrived in Charleston around sundown and glanced at their watches.  But otherwise, they could recount nothing unusual as having occurred, nor did they feel any ill effects except “having missed lunch, apparently”.

 

Authorities meanwhile are interrogating the driver, checking the bus odometer and asking local residents to call if they could report having seen this bus anytime between the hours of 11am and 6pm yesterday.

 

“Did you happen to be on that bus?”  Sheriff Leland asked Ramey, who happened to be in the nature of Nancy Loomis then.

Ms. Loomis read the article one more time, then placed Ramey’s palms to his head and sat down.

“Was Clarisse Clemens on that bus?”  Leland asked.

“I don’t know.  We got on.  We had never met with the other girls, so we sat with our own friends.  And then, after we arrived in Charleston, it was so weird, my parents came and got me and we drove home.”

“About two weeks later, I started having dreams,” Ms. Loomis continued.  The Muffin Lady pressed Ramey’s fingertips to his forehead.  “About nothing I’d ever seen, and being in other peoples’ bodies…”  She glanced at Ramey’s hands, and looked in her pocket mirror at Ramey’s face.  “Oh my God,” she said.

“You never told a soul about all this?”  Ruth asked in disbelief.

“About my dreams?” The Muffin Lady laughed harshly.

Leland shook his head.

Then Ramey spoke.  “Where’d she go?”  He asked.

“Who?”  Ruth asked.

“That business woman.  The Muffin Lady.”  Ramey glanced around as if she had been in the room standing right beside him.

Ruth’s glasses slipped off her nose.

Photo taken from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 13, 2013

Secret database2

Tracking a Scent

(Episode 48)

 

“Do you know that Robert Frost poem, where he says,

 

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,” ?

 

Nancy spoke as her fingers raced over the keyboard.

“Well, Mr. Wallace, the teacher I had for investigative journalism, said that you find those ‘two roads’?  And you trace them back to where they first ‘diverged’?  And that will make ‘all the difference’.”

Nancy had supplanted Ruth at the keyboard and was speaking to the others clustered around as she sped her investigation through the networked maze of a national data base.  Nancy had two files open.

“Okay.  In this window I’m back tracing our first victim, Clarisse Clemens.  Oh, this is interesting.  She has past arrests for prostitution and confidence games.”

“She could’ve met any kind of murdering low lives in those professions,” Ramey suggested.  Then his head twitched sharply to the right, so quickly, Ruth was afraid he might have hurt himself.

“I’ve never done any of those things,” the Muffin Lady objected sharply.  “Nor have I associated with anyone, knowingly anyway, who did them.”

“Okay, okay.  By ‘interesting’, I meant more that her background will add color to the article.”  Nancy turned and smiled.

Ramey smiled sweetly back.  ‘This is weird,’ Nancy decided.

“Anyway, so in this other window I’m tracing Ms. Loomis here, our ‘Muffin Lady’.  Oh, look at all the articles here.   And here’s those two of mine, in the New York Times!  The first, with the picture of Sheriff Leland, and then the second, with those pictures and stories of the shoot out…”

“And!  moving on…” Ruth said.

“Sorry,” Nancy apologized.

“You know, I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone test the Sheriff more than you have little girl,” Ruth admonished her.

“I know, I know.  I’m sorry,” Nancy apologized again.  “Mr. Wallace said that we may have to say that a lot.  But that, that was okay, as long as we did our job.  We got the story,” she said a little more upbeat.

“Remind me to have a word or two with this Mr. Wallace of yours,” Ruth said.

Nancy kept her head down and continued searching through the screens, trying this keyword, then that; this association, then that.

 

This went on for several hours.  Nancy kept at it, while Ruth stepped outside to have a smoke.  Then Ramey walked back to his cell, to lie down awhile, and cover his eyes with a cool washcloth.  Then Ruth stepped back inside and called across the street for some take out lunch.  Then they all ate while staring at the screen.  By the late afternoon Ramey was sawing logs while Ruth was playing solitaire in the Sheriff’s office.

“I’ve got it!”  Nancy cried.  “You were born in Pinch, West Virginia.  Doctor Ramey.  Doctor Ramey!  Did you hear that?”

“I could have told you that, had you just asked!”  Ramey/Muffin Lady staggered in groggily.

“And Clarisse Clemens was born in Charleston, but raised in Elkview, West Virgina,” Nancy declared.

“Yeah.  Just a few miles up the holler,” the Muffin Lady replied.

“Quite a coincidence, huh?”  Nancy exclaimed.  “Maybe you two went to the same school?”

“No.  No.  The kids from Elkview attended Milton middle school and then later on went on to Benton High.  While we went to the local Pinch Middle School, and then attended Sadie Meyers High.  We only saw them at the games.  And me, rarely, because girls didn’t have any sports, and I’d be damned if I was going to go miles out of my way to scream and cheer for a bunch of pimpled boys, who felt any recognition opened the door to my drawers.”

“Oh.”  Nancy reddened slightly.  “Well, still, you have to admit.  This is an enormous coincidence.”

“ But that’s all it is.”  Ruth nodded.

“What do you mean?!”

“That’s all it is.  It is an enormous coincidence.  But that’s all,” Ruth said.  “What, if anything, does this tell us?”

“Jeeze.”  Nancy sighed, and turned back to the computer.  “You know, you people in law enforcement don’t get enthused enough.  Maybe you should get out more.  Shoot something,” she groused.

 

It took Nancy three more days of after school sleuthing, before she finally hit upon it.

Sheriff Leland and Merlin had returned meanwhile with their news.  And the Sheriff had beaten up the phone and hammered on the computer for several days himself trying to figure out just who Bob and Harriet Weeds had fed to the pigs.  He tried all the databases.  He used all his passwords.  Then Agent Hailey dipped into her FBI database, using all her passwords.  Ruth googled.  And Merlin went back to his Vet lab to see what he could find and match with the weird plastic shred of evidence they had.  But they all drew blanks.  “What in the world good is an ID, if the agency doesn’t exist?”  Merlin asked.

“Probably just for show,” Leland admitted.

“So they could have been just anybody, posing to be somebody?”  Merlin said.

Leland sighed.  He nodded.

“We could have just talked to the pigs,” Merlin declared.

Leland smiled.

“I’ve got it!”  Nancy squealed, from Ruth’s office.

 

Both Leland and Merlin’s brows rose.  “What have you got?”  Leland called from his office.

“Just… the answer!”  Nancy called back haughtily.

Photo lifted from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 11, 2013

Secret database1

Investigative Reporting

(Episode 44)

 Leland and Merlin weren’t the only ones on the track of a killer.  Back at the office, the ‘ladies’ were also discussing matters.

“I’d like to do a little background on the victims of our killer,” Nancy Gillis told Ruth, “and I was hoping I could use the Sheriff’s computer.”

Ruth rolled her eyes upwards.  “That’s a departmental data base in that computer and only to be used on official business.  That means, by a ‘departmental  official’.

“Whatever I find out, you’d be welcome to.”

“Isn’t that big of you,” Ruth scoffed.

“What you don’t seem to get, little woman,” Ruth continued, after Nancy refused to walk away, “is that this (she patted the computer tower) is proprietary information, which means that it is the property of a Department of the United States Government, a Federal database used by this Bureau, which can only be accessed by someone who has the proper occupational clearance.”

“I knew you would be the most likely person to hold a clearance,” Nancy replied happily with evident awe.

Ruth bathed in this for a moment.

“Of course.  For some things.  And the Sheriff holds the passwords for other, more sensitive areas.  But none of those people include you, young lady.”  Ruth riveted Nancy with her eyeballs.

“But the victims are dead.  And I don’t see how any of this covers the killer.  I mean, what is there about our killer that you don’t want me to find out? ”  Nancy implored Ruth with her best Shirley Temple look.

Ruth shook her head.

“Why not think about it this way Ms. Haphelstot?  Aren’t there a lot of things about this case that you would like to know, and that might help in the investigation if we could dig them up?  You would like to do that wouldn’t you, Ms. Haphelstot?  Help with the investigation?  And myself, I understand computers probably better than anyone here because…  I’m young.  Everybody knows that.”

“It’s true,” Ramey said.  “I’ve got a ten year old who helps me out at the office.”

Ruth was chewing on a painted fingernail.   “Well.  There are a few questions of my own, I’ve had about these murders.  Which Sheriff Leland hasn’t had the time, or the inclination I’m unhappy to say, to pursue.  And I can’t seem to figure out the data base.”

“Go ahead.  Let the girl try her luck,” Ms. Loomis, the Muffin Lady, said over whatever it was Ramey was saying.  “I’d be interested, what the government can tell me about myself that I don’t already know.”

“See.  So we’ve got one dead person already.  And she doesn’t care.”  Nancy nodded briskly.

“At the office,” Ramey shouted, after snapping his head hard.  Nancy imagined perhaps this tossed the Muffin Lady clear of his thoughts, or at least to the side.  “My ten year old often has to go into confidential accounts in order to repair things.  There’s no other way around it, unless I were to endanger their treatment.  So I just make him swear to non-disclosure.  And we treat it that way.”

“You made a ten year old swear to non-disclosure?”  Ruth frowned, un-amused.

“On a deck of baseball cards.  He takes it very seriously.”

“Wait a minute.  I’m a reporter,” Nancy interjected.  “How can I report what I’m not allowed to disclose?”

“Good point,” Ruth said.  “That might work.”

“Not for me,” Nancy protested.  “What do I get out of it?”

“You get the information.  You just can’t attribute it to this source.”  Ramey’s head snapped back sharply the other direction, as the Muffin Lady interjected.  “Trust me.  I’ve done lots of interviews, and that’s how it works.  And once you have the information, it’s usually easy to find another source.  For example, say you find out I once lived in Cincinnati.  Then you go to the Cincinnati data base and see if I’m located there.  And when you file your story you just say, ‘According to the public files in the data base of the Cincinnati Better Business Bureau, Mary Loomis previously owned and operated a shop called “Tasty Muffins” there from 1985-1987.’  You see, simple.”

“Is that true?”  Nancy asked.  “You’re from Cincinatti?”

“Pretty much.”

“C’mon,” Ramey urged.  “We all want out of here.  The sooner we crack this case the better, for all concerned.”

Everybody nodded, including Ruth, who eventually found herself agreeing.  “Oh alright,” she said happily, lifting her newly polished nails from the keyboard and allowing Nancy her seat.  “Let’s do something!”

Photo lifted from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 8, 2013
Chipmunk on Windowsill

Chipmunk on Windowsill

Ralph Bunch Paints 6×10 Foot Chipmunk Portrait

(Episode 46)

  Ralph Bunch has never killed anyone.  And he probably never will.  And it’s doubtful anyone would ever want to kill Ralph.  So what’s his play?  Why shine our spot on him?

Well, life is fleeting (especially around Kimmel County of late) and art is forever.  So while life in Kimmel County wound on, Ralph Bunch kept painting his paintings, writing his poems and drinking his alcohol – all in a small hillside studio where he lived, just outside of town, looking down on the twinkling lights of Kimmel.  Ralph was fairly satisfied.

Ralph wouldn’t say things were going especially well.  But things rarely go especially well for painters and poets, and Ralph was “totally prepared for that” – bragging to his wife, who was pregnant with child, as much – just before she left him.

But that was water under the bridge.  The years passed.  And his paintings sold enough now to just about keep him fed.  (He was on the fighting side of 120 pounds.)

At his monthly art showing/poetry readings held in the bar in the back of the Campaign Café, his paintings often sold from three to four hundred a pop.  Then, he usually took in around sixty dollars in tips.  He wasn’t entirely without an entertainer’s wiles, and often pitched one of the exhibited paintings, by reading a poem in a voice somewhat reminiscent of John Gielgud.

The paintings and poems often were of someone – or something dear to someone – living there in the valley.   Which meant their wives and friends and relations would attend the fete.  And then the person’s mother or father or closest would purchase the painting.  On other occasions Ralph unveiled a commissioned piece.

The criticism of those who did not like the painting, often fell on the ‘painted while drunk’ side, with the comments those who did like the painting falling otherwise, and all of them drinking and getting a little more vocal as the evening progressed.  And this was how cultural life was conducted in Kimmel.

This cultural get-together was considered one of Kimmel’s more serious and proper occasions, often covered in the County Journal.  And it ranked just slightly below the Church Social as a place where a person could bring a ‘serious’ romantic interest.  Currently, Sheriff Leland was figuring just how he might invite Agent Hailey to attend with him, without it appearing too much to be what it was or would be, which was a date.

Anyway, recently Ralph was working on a large painting of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey.  He was squinting at the thing, while stepping back, trying his best to recover his original inspiration, and under a little time pressure to do so as the ‘opening’ was only 2 days away, when he caught movement in the blurry background where there, set on the mossy rock of the windowsill, was a chipmunk looking back at Ralph with an intensity Ralph had never felt in the face of any animal before.  Ralph blinked.  Then he blinked again, and kept blinking.

Ralph stepped further backwards, squinting at his work.  Then he found himself going through his cupboards looking for crackers and nuts and knocking things aside and chewing tops off.  Even later, he couldn’t recall quite what had come over him.

To be honest, the rest of the afternoon was a blur, with Ralph finding himself that evening surrounded by empty cracker cartons, paint tubes, broken brushes, snack bags and emptied cans of nuts, while on the easel in place of his nearly finished portrait of George Everlee’s prize Guernsey was a still wet 6 x 10 foot portrait of  the chipmunk – more or less.  It was probably the most intense thing Ralph had ever painted and probably supported the most paint Ralph had ever committed to one painting.  Paint covered Ralphs hands and elbows.  In the mirror, his face, looked as though someone had smeared war paint on him and then rubbed, and rubbed…  Ralph Bunch gazed around, still disoriented, as if recovering from a very vivid dream, under the bare bathroom light bulb and wiped a dribble of sweat from his nose.

The actual chipmunk, meanwhile, had disappeared.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 4, 2013
Phoning the Wife.

Phoning the Wife.

Long Distance Call

(Episode 45)

            Peter Barnett rang up Carmella with some trepidation, but with his game-voice on.  “Carmella!”

“Where the hell are you?”  Carmella replied.  She was just then placing a platter of biscuits and gravy on a customer’s table, and slammed it down so hard that the biscuits hopped, which made the customers heads hop.  (You had to be there.)

“Same place, honey.  Sorry it took so long.  I got caught in a tight spot and couldn’t call.  But all is right as rain now.  And I’m bringing home the bacon.”

“Sorry!”  Carmella said hushed, to the customers.  “I’m talking to the mayor.”

Her customers, nodded.  They were tourists, who wouldn’t know the mayor of Kimmel from the mayor of San Francisco or that he was Carmella’s husband.  But they knew the appellate ‘mayor’ and so were a bit impressed.

“I don’t know if I worry more when you sound stressed or when you sound relieved Peter,” Carmella said, hurrying out to find a spot of privacy.   “I just know that after 10 years of living with you, your high spirits don’t put me at ease.  What has happened?”  She hissed from behind the coats on the back coat rack.

“Just that my trip down here – though it has had its ups and its downs – has turned out a huge success!  I’m bringing back industry and jobs to our little corner of the woods, dear.  Kimmel’s mayor has come through!  You can start spreading the word.”

“¡Oh, no, no. Mi pequeña comadreja de un marido,” (Au contraire, my leetle weeezul of a huzbeend!), Carmella hissed.  “I am going to keep it well under my hat, until I hear the all of it, and I have you back here under my thumb where your story can be properly vetted, and sources checked and corroborated.”

“For goodness sakes, Carmella.  Should I bring my birth records?  Maybe a current photo ID?”

“You mean your hatch batch, you lizard.  What are you selling me?  And what have you been doing for two weeks?”

“I told you Carmella.  I’ve been handling some very tough negotiations.  But, handling them well, I’ll add, now that we’re through the worst of it.”

“The worst of it?  What else is there?”

“Nothing we can’t handle,” Peter assured her.

We?

“But why don’t we talk about the best of it, first?”

“I’m listening.”

“I’ve arranged with a syndicate of backers to finance the development of a huge recreational area right there in Kimmel.  We’re talking a construction budget in the millions.  Do you realize what this will do for our small community?”

“A ‘recreational area’?  You mean like horse rides and hiking and river rafting and camping and such?”

“Well, more like gambling and adult entertainment… and such.”

“Gambling and adult entertainment, in Kimmel?”

“Or just outside!  We’ll have to go over the possible locations.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“They gave me $120,000.  But we need $120,000 more.”

“$120,000.  They gave you $120,000?

“It’s earnest money.  Kind of like a ‘commission’, you know?  It’s my job to help marshal this whole thing through the governmental process, get all the proper licenses and certifications and zoning allotments and such.  I’ll be earning my money.”

“So why do you need $120,000 more?”

“Because I figured that is what it would take.”

“You figure doing all this is going to require $240,000?”

“Yes.”

“And how did you arrive at that number?  Right now the office of Mayor pays you around $5,000/year.  How come all of a sudden someone from Las Vegas wants to pay you $240,000?”

Peter had no quick answer for that.

“It seems to me that there are all sorts of little nowhere towns with little nominal nowhere mayors who could be had for a lot less than $240,000, – conflict of interest or not,” Carmella observed dryly.

“I resent that characterization, Carmella,” Peter replied.

“Well, I’m not trying to butter you up Peter.  So, answer my question.  Why, in the world, do these people want to pay you $240,000?”

“Well, it’s because they don’t actually have to pay me any of it.”

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“Well.  It’s because I already owe it, to them.”

“What?!  Peter, where in the world have you gotten $240,000 to owe anyone?”  Carmella was starting to feel a splitting headache coming on.

“Well, there’s where it’s been taking me the two weeks to get this all arranged.  And why I didn’t want to call, before it was all secured.”

“Yessssssss?  I’m listening,” Carmella said, and wishing she wasn’t.

“Okay.  This is how it went down.  But it was a good thing!  Eventually, this is going to be a good thing.”

“Peter, do you realize that we are about three minutes into this conversation and I feel like I am just now getting to whatever it is has happened that you are going to finally tell me?  And do you realize that this is how most every conversation we ever have is?  Because I have to keep digging and digging and questioning and questioning until I can finally get to what the heart of whatever it is you have to say actually is!”

Peter had been holding the phone away from his ear, so he hadn’t heard much of this.  But he felt he’d gotten the gist of it, enough, to reply with a little hurt in his voice.  “Carmella, when you get going like this, it’s no help to anyone.  Now just shut up and listen for a while.”

When Carmella didn’t reply, and Peter heard no ‘click’ of a disconnection, he continued.  “What happened is this.  After all those meetings with our sister city officials  I needed some time off, so I figured I’d just drive into Las Vegas and just look around.  All that glitter and stuff, you know.  You can literally see the place glowing in the distance.”

“You drove into Las Vegas,” Carmella sighed.

“Honey, lots of people do it, everyday.”

“Yeah, but they don’t have a drinking problem and a gambling habit.”

“It was just for a look around!”

“Okay.  So you drove in, looked around, and came back.”

“Well, no.”  Peter sighed.

“God damn it, Peter!  How much did you lose?”  Carmella felt she might crush the phone.  She massaged her forehead.

“Well, only $160,000 at first.”

“Only $160,000!  Peter where did you get that kind of money?  You didn’t   sell our restaurant did you?  I don’t see how you could have done that without my knowing.”

“No. No!  Nothing like that.  I would never do that, honey.   I just borrowed some of the city’s money.”

“You stole money from the town?!”

“I borrowed, borrowed!”

“Then pay it back, back!  Right now!”

“I am.  I have!  At least half of it, anyway.”

“Wait a minute.  You lost $160,000, but you owe $240,000.  What’s with the other $80,000?”  Carmella kept rubbing her forehead, but more vigorously.

“Well, here’s the thing.  I figured I’d lost the $160,000 because I’d made the mistake of gambling while I was drinking.  I mean, who could lose that much sober?  I went down to breakfast the next day and couldn’t even remember the night before.  I mean, I had to walk to the window to check my winnings, before  finding out.”

“Peter.  How could you start drinking?  Again?  And in Las Vegas, of all places?”

“I know.  I know.  Not smart.”

“Not smart?  Honey, what you have done is so far from ‘smart’, why, I can’t even figure out where it is.  You asshole!”

“Look, Carmella.  There’s no need to take that harsh tone with me.  Drinking is a disease.  Why, if I were dying of smallpox or something, would you be standing there calling me an “asshole”?”  Peter replied, feeling hurt and a little self-righteous.  “No!  You’d be calling a doctor.”

“No, Peter.  I think I’d watch you die, and be enjoying every minute of it.”  Carmella hissed from behind the coats, watching the Sheriff suddenly walk in.

Silence.

“I know you don’t mean that Carmella.  So I’m just going to continue as if nothing had been said, as if you hadn’t shared that.”  Peter sighed.

More silence.

“So, I figured,” Peter struck back up, upbeat.  “That sober, I could easily win it all back.  So, I went back at it with a vengeance.  I mean, I really worked hard, using all of the skills I’ve acquired, and playing it tight, playing it right.  But.  Lady Luck just wasn’t with me.  And you know, when Lady Luck frowns, well, there’s nothing you can do.  So I ended up $240,000 down.”

“Why $240,000?”  Carmella wondered, fatalistically.

“That’s when the town ran out of money.”  Peter shook his head.

“Oh,” Carmella replied, wrung out.

“But it’s a good thing! Carmella.  Because this is where I was able to turn things around, you see, because without that debt hanging over my head, I would never have been able to entice these savvy, shrewd business peopled down here into investing in our small town way out in the middle of nowhere.  But as it worked out, it’s as if I played them.  Which, I guess I have!  They are going to plunge millions into our little town, because they figure it costs them nothing!  And all it took on our parts was to lose $240,000.  Which, I might add, we plan to pay all back!”

Carmella didn’t know what to say.  She was dead tired from working in the restaurant 24/7, from listening to the crazy fantasies of a crazy husband, and now what could be impending incarceration for embezzlement – plus, just to add another dollop of bad luck to it, possible involvement with shady gambling figures, probably mob-connected.  She looked forward into her future and saw a shallow unmarked grave somewhere deep in the woods off a logging road, and her buried in a waitress smock or something.  Maybe she’d go serve the Sheriff some free coffee.  Yes.  That’s what she’d do.  She hung up.

“Leadership isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always carried out along the direct path,” Peter was touting himself into the dead phone.  “But the victory is there to be had, and the achievement to be realized for the ones who have the cajones to reach for the ring, and stay the course through those tough times of adversity, Carmella.  And let me tell you, I’m appreciative of your loyalty.  And someday, you’ll be able to take that to the bank.”

Photo by Carl Nelson of professional model


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