Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It was a dark and spooky night....

Well, in lieu of a regular Hallowe'en blog, I thought I'd just play around with an all pics sort of blog...

Happy Hallowe'en!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Thirteenth Commandment: Thou Shalt Post Odd Pictures

Just in case you were wondering, the Eleventh Commandment would be from Daniel Silva's work, with the just-right Thou Shalt Not Get Caught. The twelfth, of course, is Thou Shalt Not Cast Bad Child Actors.

Faith, and the fall from faith, is one of the underlying themes in my ongoing work, Heaven & Hell. This is ironic, of course, because a heathen like me using faith as a theme is, well, like asking Hannibal to critique the architecture of Rome.

Much of the action, of course, is set in the Holy Land (no, not Vegas) of Israel, so of course faith is an issue. Oddly, not so much for my main characters. Stryker and Devon haven't seen the inside of a church in months, and the same goes for Sabra Cohen, who's not really one for synagogues. In fact, one of the underlying issues I wrote about early on was that religious zealots are a big part of the central problem that contributes to the narrative of the book. Religious moderates, from my point of view, are much more reasonable.

That said, religious references have been infiltrating the book here and there. Chapter titles, for instance. My first chapter was called Jacob's Ladder, referencing of course the patriarch of the Old Testament and his relationship to God. Other chapters have followed along those lines, even if only indirectly. Cometh The Storm finds its origins in the book of Job. Original Sin, of course, has its theological implications. Vengeance Is Ours finds its start in a biblical passage: "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord." And How Are The Mighty Fallen comes straight out of the Old Testament. It must be the subject matter that makes it appropriate to use scripture in such ways. And while we're discussing chapter titles, I'm thinking of calling a chapter late in the book The Twilight War, but given my general loathing for glittery vampires, maybe not.

Anyway. Where I'm at right now is sort of the calm before the storm. The Very Bad Thing is being steadily prepared (no, I'm not going to say what it is, so stop asking. And don't go snooping in my computer files either. I mean you). Sabra is taking her Western counterparts on a bit of a tour of some of the sights. They've been at Masada, the fortress on a high plateau where two millennia ago, Jewish zealots held out against the Romans and ultimately took their own lives rather then surrender.

And they've been going through the Old City of Jerusalem. A pilgrim stop (though neither Devon or Stryker are really pilgrims) at The Church of the Holy Sepulchre comes first, and visits to other sites in the Old City feature in this proverbial calm before the storm.

I never really regarded a trip to Israel as being something high on my agenda. Like I said, I'm not particularly religious, and I've never felt that need to make a pilgrimage. Still, in the course of writing all of this, I do feel a need to go, to see the places I've written about, to explore it with my own eyes and feet.

Besides, the cliffs of the Masada look strangely appealing to the climber in me...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

T Is For Trial, Part Six

Shocking Turn Of Events At Grover Trial

An unexpected development stunned onlookers at the Grover murder trial today. Defense Attorney Kermit the Frog called Grover nemesis Mr. Johnson to the stand, despite the fact that Johnson did not appear on his witness list. When prosecutor Ben Matlock objected, Kermit informed the judge that new evidence had come to light requiring an addition to his witness list.

Johnson was sworn in, and the frog went to work. In the gallery, there was a hush, as muppets and humans alike wondered what Kermit was up to. "Mr. Johnson, do you go by other names?" Kermit asked innocently.

"Well, I'm Fred, of course. My detractors also call me Fat Blue. Some of them call me Mr. Blue."

"You don't like my client, do you?"

"No, not really. He's pretty annoying."

"In fact, you hate my client, don't you?"

"Objection!" Matlock thundered.

"Your Honor, I do have a point," Kermit informed the judge, who allowed it. Kermit faced Johnson again. "He's always annoyed you, hasn't he? He's always in your face, making life difficult for you. You hate him enough to kill."

Johnson looked as though he was about to have a stroke. "Now see here one minute..."

"I'd like to enter into evidence Defense Exhibit 13, a sworn affidavit sent to my offices yesterday, by the real murderer, an assassin for hire." Kermit handed a large envelope to the bailiff. "The assassin contacted me last night, informing me of what he had done, who had hired him, and why his client wanted Elmo dead. Furthermore, the assassin sent recordings of their conversations and financial records linking his client to the killing. All in one neat tidy package. Unfortunately the assassin added that he's now living comfortably in a country without extradition treaties, so we can't get him."

"Objection!" Matlock bellowed. "This is all conjecture!"

"The chain of evidence in this matter has been verified," Kermit informed the court confidently. "And the assassin identified himself. It was Mr. Snuffy."

Gasps filled the courtroom. Big Bird was horrified. "Mr. Snuffy! Not him!"

Fozzie Bear shrugged. "Wait... you mean the shaggy elephant did it?"

Beaker looked his usual high strung self. "Meep! Meep! Meep meep!"

Matlock was unimpressed. "This is an outrage! The defense is trying anything to save that murdering client of his!"

"Oh, come on, you did the same sort of thing all the time when you were a defense attorney," Kermit reminded Matlock.

"He's got you there," the judge remarked.

Kermit waded back into battle, facing Mr. Johnson. "Mr. Snuffy named you, Mr. Johnson, as his client. He added that you screwed him over by not paying him his winnings two years ago in a poker game, so he decided to screw you over by exposing you for murder. You did it. You had Elmo murdered and you framed Grover for it." Mr. Johnson looked as though he might explode. "Admit it. Admit it, damn you!"

"All right, I had Elmo killed, and I'd have done it again!!!!" Johnson screamed, glaring at Grover. "You blue bastard! You annoyed me over and over again!!! I hate you!! You were supposed to pay!! Pay with your life!! They were gonna hang you, you bastard!!"

"Mr. Johnson?" Kermit calmly called out.

"What??" Johnson countered, furious.

"You just confessed to murder. No further questions."

At this point, Johnson was taken into custody, ranting and roaring about revenge and Grover getting what was coming to him as he was dragged out of court. Kermit moved that all charges be dismissed against his client, and Matlock reluctantly agreed. The judge dismissed all charges, and the courtroom erupted. Grover was hugged by his "special friend" Karla, while Matlock looked deflated. Kermit was all smiles, having achieved victory. His wife Miss Piggy came up and gave him a big wet smooch.

Outside the courtroom, Matlock was downcast. "Fifty five years as a lawyer. All this time, I've never lost a case. This is the first time I ever lost. How do I go on?" he asked reporters, leaving.

Kermit was much more pleased, surrounded by Miss Piggy and an army of Muppets, "Justice was done. My client is a free man, free to go home and know that he's innocent in the eyes of the law. And the real murderer will stand trial for his crimes."

Grover was in a celebratory mood. Accompanied by Karla, he was beaming for the reporters outside court. "I am so happy, sirs and madams! I knew that I was innocent! And my attorney Kermit got my name redeemed! Now if you will excuse us, we are going home, sirs and madams! We are getting lucky tonight!"

The last word must go to RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich, the lawman who arrested Grover. "Damn," he muttered, looking irritated. "Damn, damn, damn." No reporter dared ask him as he walked away about Metallica. Not even the stupid ones.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

T Is For Trial, Part Five

Kermit Goes On The Offense To Defend Grover

Defense attorney Kermit the Frog continued his defense of murder suspect Grover today in court. Among the witnesses brought out to testify was the mysterious Karla, already confirmed to be Grover's lover, who, only yesterday, was one half of a cat fight with Miss Piggy in court.

Miss Piggy was diplomatic while speaking with reporters. "I thought she was blowing kisses at my Kermie. So of course I had to fight her. Well, it turns out I was mistaken. She was blowing kisses at Grover. So we managed to make up.

Karla was sworn in by the bailiff, and before a packed court room full of muppets, reporters, and lookers-on, she began her testimony. Kermit asked her about her relationship with the blue muppet. "Well, my hubby and I like to spice things up in the bedroom from time to time. We met Grover in a casino in Atlantic City three years ago, and he's been part of our lives ever since. I'll tell you, there's nothing quite like it to have your hubby on one side of you, a gorgeous muppet on the other, and the three of you are just about to get off..."

"Um, thank you," Kermit said quickly. "That's quite enough of that. On the night of the murder, where was Grover?"

"With us. In bed. See, we were in the middle of..."

"Objection!" Prosecutor Ben Matlock thundered. "Is this a courtroom or a porn studio?"

"Oh, come on," Karla protested. "I can show you pictures."

Kermit quickly recovered. "Karla, we don't need the details of your... personal life. Was he there all night?"


"He didn't take or make any phone calls?"


"Is he the sort of muppet who'd kill anyone?"

"Absolutely not. No way. He's sweet and adorable and beautiful." At this point, she blew kisses and winked at the defendant. Grover seemed to smile and softly sighed. "If you want to talk about muppets who'd kill, talk to Animal or the Count. Animal is, well, crazy. And the Count is a vampire."

"Two accusations! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!" the Count was heard to say in the gallery.

"Thank you. No further questions."

Matlock walked up to the witness at this point, and stared at her. And stared. And stared some more. Karla frowned. "Is there a question coming?"

"I'm just wondering what kind of person would sleep with a muppet," Matlock remarked.

"Don't knock it if you haven't tried it," the witness said with a wicked smile.

Matlock shrugged. "No questions."

The trial continues. Kermit rushed out of court after receiving a message from a clerk, without stopping to speak to reporters. One group of reporters crowded around Karla, who showed off pictures. Another crowded around Inspector Lars Ulrich.

"How about it, Inspector?" a reporter for the New York Times inquired. "Aren't Animal and the Count more likely suspects in this case then Grover? After all, as has been pointed out, the Count is a vampire. And Animal did throw that cream pie at President Sarkozy last year..."

"I won't comment on that," the Inspector said.

A reporter for Access Hollywood spoke next. "Lars! Any truth to the rumor that Metallica is going to appear on American Idol next season?"

Ulrich glared at the man with disgust. Then he took his service revolver from his holster, pointing it at the man. "You have twenty seconds. Then I'm coming after you." The reporter looked around nervously, as if to wonder if it was a joke. Then the Inspector started counting down. "Nineteen, eighteen, seventeen..."

The reporter bolted.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

T Is For Trial, Part Four

Kermit Opens Defense; Catfight Disrupts Court

The case for the defense opened today in the Grover trial, attended by a mix of muppets and people in a packed courtroom. Things got off to an unusual start before court, when a fight broke out. Prior to the jury's arrival, Grover was conferring with his attorney, Kermit the Frog. The woman in Grover's life, known publicly as Karla, was busily blowing kisses to the defendant. Nearby, Kermit's wife Miss Piggy saw the gestures, and seemed to mistake them as being meant for her husband.

Miss Piggy lunged out of her seat, charging across the aisle and attacking Karla. A sound not unlike a high pitched karate yell was heard, and both Miss Piggy and Karla hit the floor, scratching, hitting, pulling at hair, and screaming in fury.

Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster pulled Miss Piggy off Karla. Bailiffs rushed in, and ejected both women from the courtroom. Kermit protested, yet was refused the right to speak to his wife before court. And with that, the trial continued.

Kermit called as his first witness a grim looking muppet called Knuckles. With much reluctance and hesitation that took the entire morning to get around, Knuckles admitted that he was a bookie, and that Grover was one of his frequent customers. He went on to elaborate that Grover had owed him fifty thousand dollars after a bet on a Yankees-Red Sox game didn't go the way Grover expected. And he added that Grover had paid the debt in full, the day before the murder. Kermit reminded the jurors that this was the same amount the prosecution would have them believe Grover used as a hit-payment.

Prosecutor Matlock crossexamined Knuckles, asking why anyone should believe the word of a bookie. Knuckles countered that by remarking that Matlock's former partner Michelle was a regular customer of his gambling services. It left the stalwart DA speechless.

Kermit proceeded to call in character witnesses. Oscar The Grouch was the first, and his testimony was laced with profanity. "Look, I've known Grover for a real long ****ing time, and there's a lot he's capable of, sure. I mean, threesomes with a married couple is a bit weird. But murder? No ****ing way! He doesn't have it in him! Now, you want to see a murderer? Why hasn't anyone really taken a good look at the Count? He's a ****ing vampire, people!"

Count von Count, sitting in the gallery, looked shocked. "Me? Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! That's ridiculous!"

Matlock cross examined Oscar, but his cross examination didn't get off to a good start. "Mr. Grouch..." the prosecutor started.

"What the **** do you want?" Oscar grumpily demanded.

Matlock seemed horrified. "Your Honor, really, this language on the part of the witness..."

The judge sighed. "I allowed it. It's part of his vernacular, and people have heard that word before."

"Yeah! So ask your ****ing question," Oscar challenged.

Matlock stared at the green muppet, who glared back. "No questions," the prosecutor declared.

Court came to an end, and Kermit went off in search of his wife. Outside, reporters crowded around Matlock and Inspector Lars Ulrich. One asked, "Mr. Matlock, Inspector, have you really considered other suspects in this case? The Grouch made a good point, after all. There's a vampire living on Sesame Street."

Matlock shrugged. "All fancy tricks on the part of the defense, ladies and gentlemen. I've done them myself when I was a defense attorney. We know Grover is guilty."

A reporter with Entertainment Tonight surged forward. "Lars! How do you feel about Keith Richards slagging Mick Jagger in his autobiography?"

Ulrich glared at the reporter, contempt in his eyes. "Are you really this stupid, you moron?"

"Is that a no comment?"

"You want a comment?"

"Yes. Would this happen in Metallica?"

Ulrich said nothing. Instead he threw a punch, breaking the reporter's nose and sending him tumbling down the stairs, much to the applause of the real journalists. Up tomorrow? The defense intends to put Karla on the stand....

Monday, October 25, 2010

T Is For Trial, Part Three

Prosecution Closes Case In Muppet Murder Trial

Legendary attorney Ben Matlock brought the people's case against accused murderer Grover to a close today, with two final witnesses. After several days of presenting his case, Matlock turned the onus over to his rival attorney, Kermit the Frog.

It's been a compelling few days, with the coroner testifying about the specifics of Elmo's brutal death, which left many in court queasy, particularly in viewing autopsy pictures. Only Inspector Lars Ulrich appeared stoic as the pictures were displayed; he's seen plenty of that in his time. Other witnesses called to the stand included Bert and Ernie, who testified about Grover's resentment of Elmo's hogging the spotlight, and longtime Sesame Street resident Gordon Robinson, who predicted that Elmo would be even bigger (and more lucrative) in death then he was in life. "Yeah, we're all going to be rolling in the dough soon!" Robinson declared with a pleased smile.

The final day's testimony hinged on two individuals. Daredevil Gonzo the Great testified about his own altercations with Elmo. "Look, the little bastard got between me and my Camilla, so I'm glad to see he's gone. Camilla found him adorable for some reason or another," Gonzo told Matlock. "Whoever killed him did the world a favour. But it wasn't Grover. He wouldn't hurt anyone."

Matlock looked puzzled, as if wondering why he had called Gonzo to the stand. Kermit cross-examined Gonzo, seemingly routine questions, until the last one. "Gonzo, is it true that you **** chickens?"

The final witness was a puzzling one. Beaker was called to the stand by Matlock, and sworn in by the bailiff, who had some trouble with the muppet. "State your name for the record," the bailiff instructed.

Beaker looked around in confusion. "Meep!"

Matlock intervened. "Your Honor, the witnesses' personal language structure is a little eccentric. Let it be said that the witnesses' name is Beaker and leave it at that." The judge agreed, and Beaker took his place in the witness box. Matlock smiled, walking over. "Beaker, tell me, what kind of work do you do?"

"Mee... meep, meep, meep! Meep! Meep! Meep! Meep!" came the reply.

Kermit rose in objection. "What is the point of this testimony?" the frog demanded.

"Oh, no point," Matlock said in that laid back aw-shucks way of his. "I'm so confident that the defendant is guilty that I'm willing to waste the time of the court in having Beaker testify about nothing."

"Meep! Meep! Meep!" Beaker replied.

The judge instructed Matlock to sit down, and asked Kermit if he had any questions of the witness. Kermit nodded, and walked up to the lab assistant. "Beaker, do you believe Grover is guilty?"

Beaker shook his head vigorously. "Meep! Meep! Meep meep mee meep!"

"Let the record show that the witness shook his head. No further questions," Kermit declared.

And so the prosecution's case is at an end. Tomorrow, Kermit the Frog begins his case to save the life and reputation of Grover. And the woman known only as Karla continues her daily vigil in court, determined to see, in her words, her "sweet blue baby" cleared of all charges against him.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Forty G-Strings And A Funeral

Well, one of the porn industry's legends has shuffled off this mortal coil. Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse, died a couple of days ago of lung cancer, after a life of contradictions. A conservative sort who was working in the anything goes world of porn, he started out a seminary student. Later he went into art, and finally after Hugh Hefner (Hef, for short) founded the rival Playboy, he saw a niche, and started up his own magazine in 1965.

Oh, we guys have all seen Penthouse at one time or another (usually more then once; come on, we're guys!). Where Hef tried to go at least a little upscale, Guccione went straight to the point, with more explicit nudity and more of those letters that start out with "I never thought this would happen to me, but..."

Back in the day, it was Penthouse that published nude pics of Vanessa Williams, which cost her the Miss America title yet launched her career. And there was a nude layout (pun intended) competition with Hef over Madonna (this was back before Madge got into her current phase of weird mysticism, pretentious passing herself off as English, and irrelevance).

Not that it did him much good in the end. The porn industry moved on without him. Home video and DVD passed him by, and some monumentally bad business decisions cost him everything. He lost the brand he started out with, and lost pretty much everything else while he was at it. At least Hef managed to stay relevant. And reasonably solvent. And mellow. Having three girlfriends on your arm would probably do that for you.

How to commemorate his death? Norma suggested that Ron Jeremy has called for all dicks to be at half mast as a show of support. It wouldn't surprise me if that particular porn legend and resident troll (he is pretty damned ugly, and you know it) would do something like that.

The funeral would be another matter. As a show of support, would black condoms be handed out? Would the ladies be wearing black negligees? And would it inevitably wind up becoming a mass orgy, to be marketed for the DVD audience as Four Hundred Orgasms And A Funeral?

The answer, of course, is yes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Death Among The Ruins

Awhile back, inspired by a murder in a public place in Boston in the writings of Carla Neggers, I thought of a murder in a similar sort of place in the Ottawa valley. I decided on the Mackenzie King estate in the Gatineau Hills. This is the result, and it's jumping ahead of things, an early passage in the eventual third book of my series. Give it a look:

He came awake in pitch darkness, lying on his side in a cramped space, curled up. His hands were tied behind his back, his mouth gagged, and a slight headache and dazed feeling plagued him. Where am I? He shifted, his knee hitting something hard above, and he groaned beneath the gag. The man paused, took stock. The floor beneath him was hard, cold... and he felt as if he was moving. He realized: the trunk of a car...? He had been in this sort of position once before, years ago.
            The man tried to remember, tried to sort out in his head how this had happened. He had been on a short vacation, a few days at a rented cottage in the Gatineau valley, a long way from his home in Ireland. There had been a woman, half his age, blonde and gorgeous in a little black dress. She had bewitched him at a bar in Gatineau, flirted and teased. Then she had invited him to her hotel. He remembered being in the elevator with her, kissing her... and then what? Nothing. A blank.
            Jamie O’Shea was a member of the Irish Parliament for Sinn Fein, and had once been a feared leader in the Irish Republican Army. Back in the day, he had been known for his ruthlessness, a hard man if ever there was one. Yet those days were more than a decade in the past, and he had let himself go soft. Peace had changed things, and if he hadn’t quite disavowed the old ways, he at least understood that most people in Ireland wanted peace. He was in his mid fifties, still a charming rogue, some grey in his thick brown curly hair, and hard blue eyes that still caught the attention of the ladies. A widower for five years, he had become accustomed to the life of the politician, had thought his days of the gun were behind him.
            What is this? The question vexed O’Shea. Unlike colleagues like Gerry Adams, he had blood on his hands. A lot of it, he thought. He had been at war with the Prods and the British since the age of seventeen, nearly thirty years before peace had broken out. He had ordered the deaths of men, had personally killed many times. It was war, he justified. The bastards were doing the same to us.
            The car slowed, making a turn to the right. Where am I being taken? The car moved on, and he could feel it moving slower. Another turn, within two minutes, to the left, and the questions persisted. The car slowed, coming to a stop. He could hear the engine turn off, and heard two doors open. After a moment, he heard the doors softly close. There were footsteps outside, on both sides of the car, but they were otherwise quiet. A key sounded in the trunk lock, turning, and the trunk lid opened. A soft light came on, and it hurt his eyes for a moment.
He gazed up, and saw a dark shape of a man, dressed in black, gloves and a ski mask completing the ensemble. He appeared to be around six feet tall, two inches taller than O’Shea.  A woman – at least the shape of one- stood behind, small in build, no more than five foot five. The man reached down, pulling O’Shea roughly up by the arm, out of the trunk. O’Shea groaned, his legs cramped from the confinement, and felt the cold of the night air. The full moon and the stars shone overhead, and he smelled the faint scent of coniferous trees.
The man closed the trunk as O’Shea steadied himself, and took a glance around. They were on a dark driveway, gravel, from the feel of it. The shape of a house was nearby among the trees, no light to suggest the presence of anyone home. The woman had a gun aimed at him, a small shape in the darkness. He couldn’t tell what calibre. What do they want? He felt no fear, and remembered being in trouble like this before, and the fact that he was still alive reassured him.  That was twenty five years ago, and I didn’t have twenty excess pounds on me back then.
The woman waved her hand, motioning him to walk, and the man was behind him, the feeling of a gun poking at his spine. The woman took the lead, walking along the driveway, a flashlight coming on in her hand. O’Shea walked between them, following her, felt the tightness of the ropes binding his wrists. Is it rope? He shivered, the coolness of the August night a surprise. He was wearing trousers and a grey dress shirt, and the cold bothered him. 
She led the way, down a trail past the house, to a small wooden dock. A rowboat was tied alongside, and she turned, stepping down into it. The man poked at O’Shea’s back with the gun, silently directing him. O’Shea glanced around, saw no other light visible on the lakeshore. Think. Don’t panic. Look for a way out, he told himself. He stepped down into the rowboat, sitting in the middle, and the woman bound his ankles tightly, with what appeared to be climber’s rope. He winced at how tightly she secured him. Making sure I don’t do something stupid, he thought with a grimace.
The man stepped down into the boat behind O’Shea, releasing the lines on the dock, and took the oars, beginning to row out into the lake. It wasn’t an overly large lake, but dark in the night, the moonlight offering little illumination. O’Shea thought briefly of throwing himself overboard, but with his limbs tied so tightly... Suicide, lad, it would be suicide. The boat moved on through the water, the man rowing well on his own, the woman keeping O’Shea carefully covered with her gun. There was silence between them, no need for words.
They reached the opposite shore. There was what appeared to be a boathouse in the darkness, but the rowboat moved towards the right side, directly into shore. The woman untied the cord around his ankles, and then stepped out into the water, splashing, and moved quickly on shore. The man poked O’Shea in the back again with the gun, a hard threat in the gesture. O’Shea struggled up to his feet, and stepped over the side, his shoes getting soaked in the water, feeling the coldness of the lake against his lower legs. He stumbled up onto the shore. The woman had moved slightly up hill, keeping him covered, and he heard the splash of the man stepping out behind him. O’Shea glanced back, saw his captor walk up onto the shore, pulling the rowboat slightly up onto the shore, just enough for it to stay in place.
The woman waved the gun, and O’Shea moved up the slope, saw the dark shapes of small buildings, reminding him of a cottage, and outbuildings. There was a path, faintly visible in the light coming from the flashlight, and he started walking. The footsteps behind him told him that his captors were close behind, not about to let him take a chance to flee. They walked along, through the woods, and he noticed a clearing ahead to the left, the moonlight giving enough illumination to suggest a parking lot. The path forked ahead, one going towards the lot, the other to the right. He felt a hand at his shoulder, the man squeezing hard, directing him to the right.
O’Shea walked, a growing anxiety filling him. They moved up the path, coming to another clear area a short distance up from the lot. An expansive stretch of grass opened up before them in the moonlight, the shape of flowerbeds present. A two-story house stood in the darkness to the left, sizeable porches visible in the moonlight. O’Shea saw no trace of light inside. A tall flagpole dominated the lawn, and he saw the distinctive Canadian flag fluttering at the top. At the treeline, he could make out a columned arch, standing by itself. Where are we?
They pushed him on, a gun at his back, off to the left, past the house, through the trees. Glancing to the right, he noticed a large dark shape low to the ground, peculiar… Stone? The light suggested stonework. On the ground? They didn’t let him linger. His captors pushed him on. Up ahead, there was another clearing. The moonlight shone on a small group of what appeared to be ruins. Arched windows, stone columns,  an arched door, and four sides… as if a building of old had stood here, and was on its way into magnificent decay. What is this place? The question persisted as he walked into the midst of the ruin. He felt a chill. Something about the place, being here this late at night, with two armed people… it filled him with a growing dread.
“Stop.” It was the woman, and even the one word was enough for him to recall the sound of her voice. It was the woman from earlier in the night, but rather then the pleasant French-Canadian accent, the tone was hard, and cold.
“Down on your knees,” the man ordered, his accent hard, cold, and distinctive. It was the Ulster Irish of his enemies, of the Prods. And so, with the sound of that accent, the dread that had been growing inside him became fear. O’Shea paused, didn’t know what to do, and the voice was sharper. “I said, down on your knees.” O’Shea dropped, his knees feeling the dampness of dew on the ground. The woman circled around him, her gun aimed at his head. The man spoke again. “Do you remember Peter Reilly?”
O’Shea froze. Of course he remembered the man. Ulster Volunteers, a nasty piece of work. He had overseen the murder sixteen years before. Killing him in the foundry had been a pleasure. He murmured, but the gag muffled his words. The woman reached down, pulled the gag out of his mouth. “What… what is this…?”
“Don’t play stupid, O’Shea,” she said, her voice containing the same harsh Ulster accent as the man. “You bloody well know who he is.” The man circled around, facing O’Shea, his gun extended. Both of them glanced at each other, and with their free hands, pulled away their masks. Both had the same blue eyes, the same red hair. Hers was longer then his, and he realized she’d been wearing a wig earlier. Yet it was her, the same woman who’d caught his eye in the bar.
It was the man who spoke now. “Peter Reilly was our father.” His voice was filled with hate, his eyes flashing with rage. The same rage was in his sister’s eyes. “And you and your boys dropped him into molten steel. You butchered him.”
O’Shea gasped, realized who he was. Cain Reilly, once a member of the UVF, now his own man, with his own inner circle of Prod terrorists who didn’t give a damn about the peace process. “We’ve settled the score with the rest of them,” the woman said. “Now there’s just you. The one who called the shots.”
They took close aim at him, and he knew fear. They would never let him walk away. Not after what he had done. “Wait,” he muttered, the nervousness in his voice obvious. “Just wait a minute…”
“We’ve been waiting sixteen years, you fucking bastard,” Cain spat. Both of them levelled their guns, ready to fire. “Cecilia…” he called out softly, looking over at his sister. She nodded without taking her eyes off O’Shea. “On three.”
“No, wait!” O’Shea cried out.
“One,” Cecilia replied quietly.
“Just wait!” O’Shea begged.
Cain sneered at him. “Two.”
“Three,” Cecilia whispered. Both pulled their triggers. The last thing O’Shea saw was the flash of both guns, followed by the blackness of oblivion.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

T Is For Trial, Part Two

Muppet Murder Trial Continues; Inspector Loses Temper With Defense Attorney

The Grover Trial carried on today, with the prosecution opening its case against the blue muppet in regards to the murder of Elmo. Outside the courthouse, mourners of the beloved little red muppet who hijacked his way into Sesame Street lit candles and sang Kumbaya. Inside, prosecutor Ben Matlock called RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich to the stand.

The Inspector laid out the evidence against Grover in his testimony, questioned by Matlock in his reliable trademarked Southern charm. The defendant sat with his attorney Kermit, looking high strung and nervous. He occasionally glanced back at the gallery, where the same dark haired woman who interrupted proceedings on the first day, sat among a sea of muppets, blowing him kisses.

Ulrich explained the case against Grover, starting with the damning recording found on his answering machine after the murder, from the individual who was the contract killer. He went into detail on the missing money removed from Grover's accounts, and the claim the muppet made about gambling debts.

"More to the point," Ulrich testified. "I looked into his eyes, and what I saw was a cold blooded killer. I've seen it before, and I'll no doubt see it again and again in my line of work. Grover set up that murder. He hired someone, and went off and got himself the perfect alibi."

The woman in question blurted out, "He was with my hubby and I! I swear, we were together all night!"

The judge didn't like the outburst, and had the woman removed from the gallery. Ulrich continued. "He was jealous of Elmo. The little red muppet had monopolized his way onto Sesame Street, and a lot of the old timers were set on the sidelines. Grover hated it, and it drove him to an obsessive hatred of Elmo. So he saw his chance, and he took it. He committed murder."

Kermit stepped up to crossexamine the Inspector. "Sir, isn't it true that you're an Inspector of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?" the frog asked.

The inspector looked annoyed. He was, after all, the same man who recently defeated the hundred foot tall Stephen Harper and Sarah Palin singlehandedly, so he was far from intimidated by a two and a half foot tall frog. "Yes. Your point being?"

"Aren't you out of your jurisdiction investigating this case?" Kermit asked pleasantly.

In the gallery, Count von Count was heard to laugh. "One good point! Ah! Ah! Ah!"

The judge ordered silence from the gallery. The Inspector sighed, as if holding the defense attorney in contempt. "Look, Mr. Frog..."

"That's Kermit the Frog," Kermit corrected the Inspector.

"I was called in to do a job. I have a certain reputation in the field of law enforcement, and they needed help. And besides, a Mountie always gets his man. Or his muppet, in this case. We'll hunt a criminal to the ends of the earth if we have to."

"That's nice. Did it not occur to you to consider the possibility that my client is being set up? That he's innocent? Or did his peculiar accent and odd vocalizations annoy you into overlooking that possibility? Did his mistaking you for that Metallica musician really annoy you?"

"Look, damn it, I am not that Lars Ulrich!"

"I know that, Inspector. Indeed, I do. But Grover didn't. And that annoyed you. You really do get irritated when you get mistaken for him, don't you? You have a history of slugging reporters who make that mistake. Granted, reporters deserve to get slapped around, but that's not the point. The point is that your personal antagonism for Grover clouded your otherwise good judgement. You've condemned an innocent man, Inspector. A man who's been set up for a murder he had no part of. How's that make you feel?"
The Inspector seemed to search for an answer. Kermit shrugged, and told the judge he had no further questions. Court came to a close for the day, and once again, Grover was taken away by bailiffs. Rumor has it that Matlock is concerned about a jail break on the part of the defendant.

Among the muppets watching his departure, long time Grover nemesis Mr. Johnston was all smiles. "You know, that blue bastard is really getting what's coming to him. When he gets the chair, I'll be laughing my ass off."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

T Is For Trial, Part One



Trial Begins In Sesame Street Murder

Opening arguments commenced today in the first degree murder trial of the muppet Grover, accused of the brutal slaying of popular muppet Elmo. The trial promises to be a showstopper, and many of the residents who knew both were on hand for the first day.

Doctor Bunsen Honeydew and his lab assistant Beaker turned up early, meeting reporters outside. "Oh, what a glorious opportunity!" Honeydew declared. "We get to see the trial of the century, and it's happening here at Sesame Street. You know, this doesn't happen very often. Not since Animal tossed a whipped cream pie in the face of the Pope ten years ago..."

Beaker looked suitably nervous. "Mee... meeee, meep!" he exclaimed in that way only he can.

Honeydew didn't seem to notice. "Yes, this has delayed my upcoming experiment. You see, I'm going to infect Beaker here with the ebola virus, just to see what happens."

Beaker didn't seem to like that. "Meep!!!! Meep!!!! Meee! Meep meep meep! Mee mee mee meeeee! Meep!"

Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count turned up as well. "Get the **** out of my way!" the Grouch ordered reporters as he passed into the courthouse.

The Count was decidedly more polite. "One temper tantrum. Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Two temper tantrums! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!"

Big Bird arrived, along with the Cookie Monster, who was stuffing his face full of Oreos. "Om nom nom!! Om nom nom!" Cookie Monster proclaimed as he headed inside, a trail of cookie crumbs falling behind as he went in.

Big Bird sighed, and spoke to reporters. "You know, it's tragic what happened to Elmo, but we shouldn't judge Grover. Not until he's found guilty anyway. I'm taking bets on the verdict, if anyone's interested in a bet."

Long time bickering couple Bert and Ernie arrived for the trial, and announced their intention to sit through the whole thing. "Well, we have to," Bert declared. "Grover's a buddy. Besides, that little twit Elmo outed us to the press."

"Yes, he got what was coming to him," Ernie agreed.

Inside the packed courtroom, filled with people and muppets, the defendant was brought in. Grover looked nervous, worried about his chances. A dark haired woman called out, "We love you, baby! We believe in you!" Then she blew the muppet a kiss.

Grover was brought to sit beside his attorney. Kermit the Frog has taken the case, dressed for court (unlike the rest of the time, when he walks about au naturel. The Frog has a worthy opponent in the prosecution. Legendary Atlanta defense attorney Ben Matlock, who for years prowled the halls of southern courts unmasking killers in dramatic last minute cross-examinations (all while wearing an endless number of grey suits) is the prosecutor for the case. He's still as white haired as ever, still the aw-shucks Southerner, but he's wearing black these days. It's a big change for Matlock, and so is the new job.

"Oh, I spent forty years putting people behind bars or to death by exonerating my clients," Matlock told reporters before the case began. "I figured I'd come out of retirement and work as a DA for awhile, get back to putting murderers on the electric chair again, only for the other side. Besides, I lost a lot of retirement money to that son of a bitch Madoff, so I had to get back to work."

Both attornies addressed the jury. It was an epic clash of titans, worthy of William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow. Matlock told the jurors that they would be confronted with damning evidence that Grover was ultimately responsible for the murder of Elmo. Kermit countered that his client is innocent, that he would never hurt anyone, and that Grover's fate was in their hands. There was a sneer of disbelief from the gallery. This reporter thought it might be the RCMP Inspector, Lars Ulrich, who made the arrest, and is in attendance. Another reporter suggested later that it was longtime Grover nemesis Mr. Johnson.

The first day of the trial is at an end, and Grover was taken back into custody. While Inspector Ulrich started arguing with a reporter outside the building, the same woman who'd made her outburst in court addressed other reporters. "My Grover is innocent! He'd never hurt anyone. I know this jury will look into his beautiful sexy eyes and see him for who he is! And if they don't, I'll just have to break him out of prison..."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

N Is For Nightmare

The muppet finds himself running for his life. The tunnel is dark and cramped, water flowing at his feet. Grover finds himself breathless, but he knows he cannot stop. The hunter is behind him. Coming for him. He will never stop. Grover runs on, wondering how to get out of this place, desperate for freedom, for a way out. He comes to a halt. There is open sky ahead. He moves forward, to the edge, and looks down. The river is far below. Water spills out of the dam, out of the tunnels just like this one. He's trapped. A voice booms behind him. It is the voice of the hunter. It is the voice of Inspector Lars Ulrich.

Lars: Freeze!

Grover freezes, filled with terror at the sound of the lawman's voice.

Lars: Turn around!

Grover turns, facing his nemesis, who's armed with a Glock, aiming it at the muppet's head.

Grover: You know, sir, this situation seems strangely familiar, sir. Like The Fugitive, sir!

Lars: Yes, well, the guy writing all this was going to take the whole thing in this direction, then reconsidered. Now! Down on your knees!

Grover: I did not kill Elmo, sir!

Lars: I don't care!

Grover: Yes, sir, this is looking more and more like a take on The Fugitive, sir.

Lars: I said, down on your knees! Grover, do you want to get shot?

Grover: Sir, please.... I must ask! Why does a band member from Metallica spend his time chasing fugitives, sir?

Lars glares at the fugitive. Then he pulls the trigger, bullets tearing into Grover's body. The muppet screams in pain, and then falls back, tumbling off the edge.....

....and he sits up, screaming. Grover finds himself on his cot in his cell, trembling and shivering, the nightmare all too real.

Grover: Oh, I am so screwed....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How To Lose Friends And Alienate Agents

A curious thing happened while perusing my way through Writers' Digest today.

There's a new member calling himself The Liar (original name, by the way). It appears he's got a chip on his shoulder, and his reactions to various posts he started shows that to be true.

He started a discussion about an agent, Kristin Nelson, which was, to say it plainly, a rant complaining about why his manuscript isn't getting picked up by her.

First, the words of Miss Nelson, who wrote about this in her own blog, explaining why she wasn't going ahead with the book, in the most diplomatic way possible:

Both Sara and I gave it a look. And we passed on offering representation despite all the obvious excitement around the project.

"Should be a slam dunk for ALL agents to throw their hats in the ring, yes?

"So why not? Do I think the manuscript will sell? Probably.
"I didn’t go for it for one simple reason: I didn’t feel passionate about the manuscript. I could see what was generating the excitement but it
wasn’t right for me.

"I know I’ve mentioned this before on my blog--that agents don’t just take on projects that they think will sell or be saleable—but I think it’s always worth repeating.

"It really does come down to the right person and the right fit."

Now, the words of the Liar:

Ms. Nelson is not alone in her view. A lot of agents say the same thing: that even though a manuscript looks "serviceable," if they aren't one hundred percent "in love" with it, they'll take a pass. Otherwise, the argument goes, why would the agent want to wake up every day knowing she had to -- <gulp> -- try and sell something she doesn't "love."

Thank God for the revolution that's in progress. We can finally weed out these prima donnas and not have to tolerate or listen to their blatantly obvious cop outs.

Does anyone think top sellers in any field "love" what they do? I mean, the absolute top of the crop.

Hell no. What they love to do is sell. They like to work and they like to make money, both for themselves and their company.

I know that Ms. Nelson has to prop herself up with all this vainglorious mystique and holier-than-thou phony baloney. But come on!

She's nothing more than a spoiled brat with the apparent financial means to behave as such.

A new era is dawning. And I can't wait to watch it destroy the snobs.

Sincerely Yours,

The Liar

Me again. Read some of those words again, just to drive home the point:

"Thank God for the revolution that's in progress. We can finally weed out these prima donnas and not have to tolerate or listen to their blatantly obvious cop outs."

"I know that Ms. Nelson has to prop herself up with all this vainglorious mystique and holier-than-thou phony baloney. But come on! "

"She's nothing more than a spoiled brat with the apparent financial means to behave as such.
A new era is dawning. And I can't wait to watch it destroy the snobs."

Like I said, this is a guy with a chip on his shoulder. This is a guy who's obviously got anger management issues, and someday will be the angry guy who takes a rifle and starts shooting people. It seems he doesn't take rejection very well. Or criticism. I'd like to commend Miss Nelson, first, for being so civil in her own remarks. I had a look at her blog, and she could have come right out and said there'd be no chance in hell she'd work with someone so obviously pissed off, so obviously bitter, so obviously an asshole. She didn't. I would have. In fact, I did.

Anyway. He's turned up as a new member on WD in the last few days, and sure enough, reading his post history, the chip's even bigger and bigger. Very angry man, I'd have to say. I started off in my own reply by simply saying he has a chip on his shoulder. Nothing too harsh. His response?

Defenders of the status quo and ignoring the sound of the tolling bell.
You folks apparently don't watch sports-related TV these days. Having a chip on your shoulder is now considered a good thing.

Yes, he can't even take mild criticism, our boy the Liar. So, the gloves came off. Linton and I both called him like we saw it. We called him an asshole. If the shoe fits...

This is what I said:

"you're being an asshole, pure and simple, acting like a spoiled little brat who's throwing a temper tantrum because he's not getting his way.

Grow up."

That's simply stating fact. He was being an asshole. He was being a whiny little brat, screaming and hollering because he wasn't being published, no doubt the same way he screamed and hollered when Mommy didn't give him a lollipop back in the day. It was a temper tantrum. And true to form, he closed down the replies to his discussion, and deleted his own replies, because there wasn't anyone around giving him the proverbial lollipop. Instead, we were calling it like we saw it: the guy's an asshole.

You know, it probably doesn't occur to this guy that the reason he's not going to get published is that an agent, editor, or publisher really don't have to put up with a self absorbed, immature jackass. And that's what he is. An adult will learn from a rejection of this type, try to correct their own errors or shortcomings. What an adult won't do is go off and post a rant in a public forum like this, whining because he's not getting his own way.

Liar, for the record, if you happen to see this: you are an asshole. In fact, you could give lessons in how to be one. Grow up, learn how to take setbacks. If you can't do that, find somewhere a long way away from anyone else, and feel free to scream and holler like the spoiled brat that you are.