lost time incident 05
This week, the weather has gone back and forth, from a midnight storm and lightning strike in the neighborhood that set off car alarms to a stretch of hot days that made short sleeves a requirement. It’s an odd winter. It’s been a week where flocks of birds are found lying in the fields and, when viewed from above, are in the shape of a larger, single bird. It’s been a week where a dog, its fur damp, will lope out of the fog toward you, a human hand in its mouth, and it will just watch you fumble with your keys as you try to get inside and away from whatever’s out there in the fog.
Crazy weather. Strange winter.
hi-ho, silver away
So what have we been up to? As little as possible. In a capitalist system, you don’t have to do anything, so long as you have money to spend. So I spent some of it commissioning fiction from a writer I was introduced to via Twitter: Ruben Ferdinand. I had been charmed by the gonzo noir weirdness of his Dick Hardboiled tweets and when he posted that he was taking commissions to write fiction, I thought his imagination would be an interesting prism to shatter an idea against.
For those of you who’ve read lost time incident 02, you’ll remember that I had some ideas about how it might be interesting to explore the racial/imperialist themes of The Lone Ranger by shifting the genre to sci-fi and telling the story of a human who was put in the position of “wise native” by an alien.
Ruben took the idea (and some cash) and ran with it. For your amusement, we’re happy to introduce a hero for some other age: The Lone Ranger
4×6 no envelope please don’t read
I was just poking around through some of my old files and came across this bit that I had written about, then filed away and forgot about:
postcards from terrible spies
In my country, we don’t have this word “encrypt”. If you want message left inside dead-person-building, you must say which dead-person-building. Otherwise, I use postcards, which are easy and no dead people. Anyway, missile is built, yes. Come destroy.
I lost our code book. Can you send me the code word versions of these words so I can send them? “Missile” “Nebraska” “ready” “please” “destroy” “soon” “nuclear” Thanks!
Received your latest encoded message, but could not understand last bit. “I have always loved you.” Code book does not include this phrase. If this is important to your suicide mission, please re-encode and send again
The body had been found behind the back of a suburban house in a subdivision that was still under construction. It was at the bottom of a pit that was some day to be filled with concrete to form a swimming pool for some well-to-do nuclear family.
Two police officers stood next to the body, taking notes and waiting for the coroner to arrive. The mid-afternoon sun beat down on their blue uniforms.
“I’ve been watching a lot of cop shows,” said Singh, the taller of the two men.
“Why?” asked Lopez. He paused, his pen suspended above the notepad’s surface.
“A number of reasons, I suppose,” said Singh. “To see how much less exciting my actual day job is when compared to its fictional equivalent. To get a sense of moral superiority whenever I spot an inaccuracy. Occasionally, I’ll learn something.”
“Oh yeah?” asked Lopez.
“Sure. For example, this body here? I would estimate… that it’s been here for four hours or less.”
Lopez looked down at the body. “No kidding.”
“There’s hints. I saw them on this television show. Lady shows up, says if the body’s been dead for around four hours, you’ll find the limbs are stiff. Rigor mortis. Just like this guy.”
Lopez idly tried to lift the arm of the body with the toe of his boot. It was not a successful attempt. “Rigor mortis. Yeah.”
“And if we were to touch the skin, we might still see it blanch as the blood leaves the area and does not return. In a few more hours, the blood will have clotted, and we can press all we want– won’t make any difference.”
“Doesn’t make any difference now,” said Lopez.
“Ah, but you’re thinking big picture. I am referring to the very small picture. It would make no difference to how the skin will react.”
“Indeed,” said Singh. “That’s why I poked the body with a stick. My reasoning was two-fold. One: it allowed me to test for blanching of the skin. Two: it did not introduce any oils from my own hands that may be picked up by any forensics pathologist later, who may be tempted to add me to the suspect list.”
“You’re not a suspect,” said Lopez. “You were with me four hours ago.”
“Yes,” said Singh. “You’re my alibi. Also, I’m a police officer and not a murderer. There are many factors in my favor. Also, note the presence of flies.”
“Sure,” said Lopez. “There’s flies. We’re outdoors. That’s mostly where you’ll find flies.”
“But no maggots. If there were maggots on the body, we could assume that the flies have been present for long enough to go through many steps of their life cycle. They have not. That also establishes how long–”
From behind the two officers came a yawping sound. Both officers turned to note the arrival of their colleague, an immense white-furred beast that stood at 7 feet tall, its muzzle panting with excitement, sharp teeth glistening in the afternoon’s light. It stood at the lip of the dirt pit.
“Detective Yeti,” said Lopez.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen. I heard we had a body.” The creature hopped down into the pit and bent to examine the body.
“You heard correctly,” said Lopez. He looked down at the notepad in his hand. “Singh here has been going over what he figures was the time of death. I wrote down here that his money is on ‘about 4 hours.’ This is based on the rigidity of the limbs, the responsive color of the skin to pressure, and the presence of–”
“Why are we standing here in this pit? This kill is fresh! This body has been here for a few moments, at the most! Did you see the killer flee? The murderer could very well be within sight! With our giant feet, prodigious stride, and keen senses of smell, we three may yet catch the killer!” Detective Yeti bolted upright and started to climb back out of the dirt pit.
“What?” said Singh.
“Ditto,” said Lopez. “Detective Yeti, there’s no way the killer’s nearby. This body has been here a while.”
From the lip of the pit, his eyes scanning back and forth for a sight of the mysterious killer, the creature who served on the side of the law gave a low, angry bark. “NO. I AM A VERY GOOD DETECTIVE. I don’t see how you could have ignored the obvious!”
“How’s that, Detective?” asked Lopez.
The yeti sighed. “Okay, if you’re not going to leap out of that pit and help me chase the killer, that’s fine. I am a very good detective and will find them even if they have a few more minutes to flee. These are the facts. ONE: Look closely at the body’s eyes. Do you see anything odd about them?”
Singh leaned down. “They look … milky. Like a dead person’s eyes.”
“THEY ARE NOT FROZEN.” Detective Yeti pointed an accusing claw down at the body. “Any body left out in the open like this would have the liquids in its eyes and orifices start freezing immediately. In the Himalayas, every child knows this. Basic knowledge.”
Lopez looked up at the mid-afternoon sun. The day was quite warm. Full of bird song and the dim rumbling sounds of earth-moving equipment, coming from distant lots in the subdivision.
“TWO: Have you tried to move the body?” Somewhere under all the fur on Detective Yeti’s face, an eyebrow tried to elevate itself. The Detective had lived long enough among humans to manage to imitate many of their most common gestures, from shaking hands instead of licking faces, and indicating skepticism with eyebrows instead of open-handed blows.
“We’re not supposed to touch the body,” said Lopez. “Contaminates the crime scene.”
“I did poke it with a stick,” said Singh. “But the stick was part of the crime scene, so…”
“THE BODY IS NOT FROZEN TO THE GROUND!” bellowed Detective Yeti. Singh and Lopez covered their ears. They could hear the sliding glass door of the nearby home rattle in its metal runner. “Any body that falls to the ground can’t help but melt the ice and snow with its body heat. Yet this body can be pulled free without effort. The ice has not refrozen around it.”
Singh tapped his hand against the nightstick that swung on his hip thoughtfully. “Begging your pardon, Detective, but I suspect that you are perhaps viewing this current crime scene through the lens of your own life experience and not taking into consideration your current–”
“I AM A GOOD DETECTIVE! I am a VERY GOOD DETECTIVE!” The glass sliding door surrendered with a tinkling collapse somewhere behind the lip of the dirt pit that Singh and Lopez were now crouching in, covering their ears. “I solve cases! No matter the size of the criminal, be they a GOAT or a SHERPA or another YETI!”
“It’s just not cold here!” said Lopez.
Detective Yeti stood stock still. A look of doubt passed over his face, briefly. His claws clenched and unclenched. “Not… cold.” His thoughts slowed, like a bear readying for hibernation. A boiling teapot stopped whistling. A carpet of leaves fell softly onto a quiet forest floor. A library decorated with seats of velvet slowly sank into a swamp.
“It’s not cold,” Detective Yeti repeated.
Miles away, the killer shivered, but it was because the air conditioning at a local electronics store was set on a rather high setting, and the killer’s post-murder sweat cooled on his skin as he flipped through discounted films on Blu-Ray. “Physical media’s on the way out. But hell, today, we’re celebrating,” he said. After all, what about all those special features? Gag reels! Commentary tracks!
watching other things
Hong Kong comedian/actor/director Stephen Chow has a new movie called MERMAID that looks like it’ll be fun. [trailer]
If you want to watch a great period piece detective movie set in 1930s Calcutta, India, look no further than DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY, a stylish film with an atypical soundtrack (both for the genre and for Indian films in general). It’s available on Netflix at the moment. [trailer]
A third thing would go here if I had seen a third thing worth mentioning, but I haven’t, so I would like to cede my time to your own eyeballs. Let them look around at whatever they want for five minutes. It’s not always about you, you know.
ending theme song
Can you believe we’ve made it to the end of another one of these things? You know what that means? The little lump of meat we have in our chests that was set in motion with electricity years ago is still twitching away, pushing blood around, once every few seconds, and it’s still going! There it goes! Lub dub. Lub dub. Lub– dub. Oh man, way to mess with us, fist-sized meat that will one day let us down!
If you like what you’re reading, feel free to tell your friends. Feel free to make new friends by telling them about this newsletter. “Hey, there, stranger. I couldn’t help but notice that you know how to read a menu. Since you can decipher that text, maybe you’d like to use your literacy in this other fashion that involves short fiction and trying to make me overly aware of the status of my heart?”
Just a suggestion.
Thanks as always to my wife Amanda for providing artwork, this time by painting over an old EC comics postcard, converting it into a Detective Yeti tableau. As soon as I can think of a good idea for it, we’ll have some sort of giveaway for that original art, suitable for framing.
See you the next time we do one of these!
Your friend (and mine),
Michael Van Vleet