Retribution Inequality

I saw a question/frustration posed by someone in a writing group that piqued my thoughts (and a response) about retribution. It happened over a month ago, but it has stayed on my mind and will continue to stay there as an example of what not to think. This has relevance to Monday’s post, as it follows along the same type of thinking and how to view others.

The writer was bothered about a bad guy being killed off. Him dying was not the issue.

She took issue with the fact that the villain was dispatched in a second, gone, dead, poof, finished. Nearly instantly.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, she said that he didn’t even know he was going to die, unlike his victims. He didn’t suffer, unlike his victims. He didn’t cower in fear, unlike his victims.

And she asked: Where’s the justice in that?

At first glance it almost seems like she has a point, but take a step back and remember schadenfreude – pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

Let’s remember one very, very clear fact here: there is no more final punishment than death. Poof, gone, finished, that person is gone. Anything less and they have the hope of living. Death is very, very powerful. But it’s only a final punishment.

Torture is keeping someone alive while causing them pain. It is a cruel and inhumane thing to do. What is the point of torture? To cause pain and suffering. But it’s more than just causing pain. It has another component. It is also to take pleasure in the misfortune of the person being tortured.

Now we have a villain in a story. A vile, evil person who does terrible things. Things that require the justice of death to be placed upon him. The bad villain dies, justice is accomplished. Keeping him alive, making him feel fear, torturing him because we’ve relabeled him as a “villain” instead of a “person,” that’s torture. Not justice.

Even with all that I can see someone can still have some mental wiggle room, thinking that someone was so heinous that it really is deserved. Take another step back and recall the reason for the criminal committing the act in the first place, for they are doing it usually for the same reasons: taking pleasure in someone’s pain. Even if someone may “deserve” it, we shouldn’t relish in the pain of another human being, especially if we want to be the moral superiority.

Remember, people are people, and death is the final punishment. There is no point in making a villain suffer for their crimes if death is the punishment justice calls for. No point other than creeping closer to that same mentality that that same villain had – as said elsewhere, falling to their level.

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Snow shoveling is cold

I love the weather here. It’s cold, clouds come and go, the snow makes it seem bright which is good for mom, and there’s snow. In summer it was warm and humid, which was a pain, but bearable, even though I went without AC for most of it.

When the temperature reaches 50 F it’s feeling warm. We’d start fires and bundle up in CA if it got that cold. 30 F at night in CA was so chilling it hurt my throat. Here, it doesn’t.

But I tell you: I’d add snow shoveling with my list of things I don’t want to ever have to do but have to do. Currently that list is mowing the lawn, driving in snow, and shoveling snow. It’s cold and exhausting. But it really heats you up. Shoveling a solid gallon of water at a time (so around 6 – 10 lbs of snow) is tough work.

And 10 minutes later in a warm house (probably around 55 or 60, very toasty) your face is still feeling like it wants to contract from a liquid into a metal, don’t ask me how.

So it’s tough and cold.

But it isn’t so bad. Just new. Well, that and it makes the glasses so cold they condense all the water in the house onto them at once the second you step inside. Just sucks it all up.

But hey, if we don’t shovel the snow, we can’t go driving through it! Sure… like that’d be a bad thing.

I can see why bears hibernate. You really don’t want to leave the den when there’s a wall of snow outside.

But regardless, I’m loving this weather. And the people.

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The idea that people are people

I was listening to a certain speaker one morning as he was talking about a subject near and dear to all of us. He pointed out some examples of the way people have treated each other in the past, present, and unfortunately, future.

This treatment of others is one of the core issues, if not the core issue and basis of morality, that I want to convey with my Lupine series. I made a world of diverse species, humanoids, and anthropoids not simply because it makes it all a fun world to write (it is, I like it), but because it provides a very strong point of making each individual in the stories distinct from all the rest in a way that humanity today is not.

The characters may all have similar backgrounds, but they are distinctly different. Some look like animals, some look like humans with animalistic traits (that’s actually an important part of the non-revealed backstory, but that’s an answer for another time), and they all have different looks, behaviors, sensitivities, and even ways of thinking.

I want to make it clear that their ways of thinking aren’t simply due to their upbringing, but that there are real differences in each characters’ brain/physiology that make them think differently.

And thus, one of the moral points of the story is: they can get along together. Even through all their very real, very strong differences, the important characters all hold the very same beliefs. The belief that all other characters of all the other species are people. The idea that people are people.

Does that sound like a self-answering idea? It sure sounds like it. But here’s the problem: human history has shown that in the past, present, and future, a good portion of people (and I’m not talking 1% here) don’t view all other human beings as “people.”

The most obvious recent example is what happened to the Jewish community in 1930s-1940s Germany. They were not “people,” they were “Jews,” – relabeled in an accurate but de-personizing way.

But it goes back much farther, for all of history.

Note I’m going to list a lot of things here that may seem opinionated or divisive. They aren’t. It’s just to make a point. Think about the following. Everything below is a person. But think about the thought attached to something. Are they really thought of as a “person,” or are they the title that has been assigned to them? Even if mostly benign, think about how adding a simple label, even accurate, changes the perception of them not just for you, but for the people that believe in those labels.

Thus:

They were not persons, the Kings and Emperors were divine. (Anglo Kings and Chinese/Japanese Emperors were supposedly appointed by God for the former, and the latter were/(are) supposedly of the divine.)

They were not men, they were slaves. (A person has been, at some times in history, not defined by their belonging to the human species, but by the amount of melanin in their skin.)

They were not persons, they were extremists. (Now were looking at it not from simply a downtrodden perspective, but a renaming of those who did hurtful things.)

They were not people, they were Nazis. (We’re still re-defining person-hood here in order to make sense of why such terrible things could happen. We see that some people were so terrible in thinking other people were not actually people that thinking of the atrocious actions means we cannot view the perpetrators as people themselves.)

They were not people, they were Politicians.

They were not people, they were CEO’s.

They were not people, they were Rich Folk.

They were not people, they were Animals.

They were not people, they were Poor Folk.

They were not people, they were Soldiers.

They were not people, they were Terrorists.

They were not people, they were just a percentage, a statistic, an unfortunate accident.

They were not people. They are You and I.

This is one of those things that gets harder and harder to think of when all the terrible things that happen, happen. They get muddled by layers upon layers of belief that claim one idea but act on another.

It made me appreciate the view that all people are people. That belief should be the core of how you view others. The first and foremost one. After that you can add on that certain people have other attributes, such as wealth or status or beliefs or skin color, but that you never forget first and foremost that other people are people, and that treatment of them first demands you treat them as a person first and foremost, never as a title they may end up having.

And you should never try to reassign your belief that other people are somehow, in some way or another, for good or bad, not people. Because it’s people who do good, and it’s people who do bad. But it’s when you forget that people are still just people that you allow yourself to get lost.

And that’s why I write about characters that are entirely different in every conceivable way, in ways that humankind has never been. Because they believe that other intelligent species are just the same as them, people.

Wouldn’t it be great if every person held onto that belief?

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How I like entertainment

I’ve come to notice why I like games. Though this also applies to books and television. I’ve come to especially notice the styles and what I do and don’t like, and just how much they relate to my patience. I’ve found I’m not an enjoy-the-journey person, nor am I a completion-is-everything person.

I want a journey and completion, and then a new game/book/show to follow with another journey/completion. If the journey takes too long I get antsy waiting for the completion. If the completion comes too soon then I’m annoyed at how short the journey was.

Half-hour TV shows are bad, they are just too short. 45 minute shows are pretty good, they have a decent length journey and wrap it up well due to having the time.

Movies are a big deal, they are all about pacing. You get the pacing right and a long movie can be very, very enjoyable. But when I thing of a movie, anything that doesn’t push past the hour twenty-five mark feels like it’s cutting short, even though it may be just fine story-wise.

Which is why I find it interesting some of my favorite books are incredibly long. I find them an interesting contrast to the relatively short Nero Wolfe mysteries. But in essence, they are the same thing, both feeding the journey and conclusion loop I love. Because there’s another part to it. I like similarity in the next journey. In other words, I want the same characters going on new journeys and having new conclusions.

I’m happy with the Nero Wolfe books because there are 30 for me to read, and 40+ in existence, not counting the ones written by other authors. So I get to read a story, see it’s conclusion, and immediately jump into another one.

Not having that “another one” is a feeling I know well. Something ends, and you want another, but there is no other. It’s probably when I get an especially large dose of it that I switch mentally to another format.

I have different modes I switch through, sometimes months at a time in one or another. Game, reading, watching. I’ve gotten better about mixing them together, but there are times, sometimes months on end, where all I want to do of the three is watch TV instead of play games or read. (This is about choosing entertainment, by the way, not choosing an entire way of life and abandoning all else. Just whether I want to do all, some, or simply am only in the mood to read things for entertainment.)

How about those very long books I like? Well that’s actually quite easy. Even though they are half-million word monsters, the journeys inside are multi-faceted. They concern heroes going on adventures. They are like the old final fantasy / breath of fire / etc. games where there is one overarching plot, but several things standing in the way. Each their own journey and completion on the road to getting to that final major plot. It feeds into the loop and the desire for things to keep on going with the characters you are attached to.

This is partly why newer games that come out that are praised for length if they last a whole 10 hours thoroughly annoy me. Sure, lets get through 6 hour and a half levels instead of, oh, 20 half-hour levels… no thank you.

Which reminds me – Portal (one) may be rather short as well, but it did things like this well. You had a small puzzle, completion, new puzzle, overarching plot, and then an exciting climax. Portal (two) had its own merits, but in some ways it took too long.

Where am I getting with this? No where really. Just that I have a better understanding of what I like and why, and that it’s interesting this is why I prefer to write a series (Together with Silver) instead of several individual books. I don’t even have an idea of others, since the series is consuming.

I live and breathe series.

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So… any kids games?

Someone asked me what I’d like to do in life. There are a few things, but I’m the kind of person who’d be mostly content with doing nothing, playing some games, and other dull stuff. I have a mild affinity for writing, so I’ve tried picking that as a hobby-to-be-profession. Other than the massive time investment required (I’m still a person who doesn’t have much patience), that’s something I’ve reasonably liked.

My mother mentioned that when I was a child I said I’d like to review video games. Yes, I recall saying that. Boy, I would love to. Game reviewers have it made, right? Yahtzee is the man! Unless, of course, you listen to his reviews, most of which are spittingly funny in their sarcasm and dripping hatred of every bad game he has to review. But there’s a couple points to this. First off, reviewing games is not all unicorns and rainbows. It may also not pay the rent. The other thing, I mentioned to the person who asked, was that although it’d be good, the problem is the games are riddled with violence, rending the majority of them non-reviewable.

And she mentions “So what about reviewing games for kids?”

I was a little struck. Kids games? Kids games? Of course, kids games! Playing games + reviewing them + not having constant shooting/violence = kids games… right?

It was just a thought, but something interesting to think of. So for kicks I looked into kids games.

There are no kids games. Period. There are educational games, there are rather pointless games, and then there are teen and up games.

I don’t mean educational games. I don’t mean drawing games where you color pictures (pointless).

I mean a game with a reasonable level of thought required, yet still aimed at a younger audience. I don’t mean cartoony, I don’t mean nonsensical silliness… just games that an adult (or even self-conscious teen) wouldn’t be embarrassed to play, yet was aimed at kids.

Commander Keen, one of my old favorites, was more or less a kids game.

Nowadays, it looks like there is no category on Amazon for kids. I refuse to click on educational, because, again, that’s not what I mean by kids games.

I guess I’ll just have to search harder.

I just don’t want to delve into flash games. I want something standalone, that costs money, that isn’t educational, yet is for children, let’s say 6-12. The kind of stuff I played as a kid were kids games, aimed at a younger audience, yet non-embarrassing.

This does, in some way, only show it’s a good idea. A site that concentrates on finding and reviewing those kind of games would be pretty nifty, dont’cha think?

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Errors of past work

Yes, I know it exists. And then, when little sister number two, re-reading my book that she just so happens to love, comes bounding through the hall pointing out that I had an instance of “parent’s” instead of the correct parents’ or simply parents, there is that slight groan of knowing another error exists.

Letting go of the need to correct everything every time is a big deal. I know Dangerous Rainbows is riddled with them. I don’t particularly care – I never intended for that to be a great work – which, by the way, is why it’s about free everywhere. But to find out that TLP still has two misused parent’s is an arrow to the knee. And I’ll never forget that my first edition, of which I still have 12 printed copies or so to hand out, says retractable claws like those of a wolf, instead of the correct retractable claws unlike those of a wolf. Yes, my characters have traits but aren’t bound by the exact physiology of the creatures those traits are influenced by. It’s not as fun, and it’s also not in line with the back story.

But yes, I know errors do exist. I’ve even corrected some of them in a 2012 edition of TLP (most notably wolf claws). However further revisions would require much more work. Suddenly my kindle previews are adding “CHAPTER TITLE” – those exact words – in some odd places, and I don’t know why. I’d have to remake my entire kindle version. And getting a new pdf to createspace requires some updates to software that isn’t behaving right now.

But the hard part is leaving a past work alone. My next book will be painstakingly edited. I use a slightly different rule of grammar and consistency. It’s a much more evolved work in several ways. Though my basic writing style (in terms of story) has only slightly changed, the way I use grammar is better, probably. Certain words and phrases are used in certain ways. I have a better sense of keeping things consistent the entire way though.

It’ll be better for The Lupine Chevalier. It does, however, come at the expense of time. It also means that when the errors do appear in the final version days/weeks/months/years after publication, there will be another groaning.

One of the things that people online tend to dislike about self-published works is errors. Bestsellers also have errors. Professional editors miss things. But knowing someone has self published means you may not mention it if a bestseller has three errors, but two errors in a self-published book will make those same people put it down and say it’s riddled with problems.

See, I know there are errors. I’ve fixed thousands of them. I’ve gotten my error rate down very, very low. I know that even with three pairs of editor’s eyes and several revisions on my own there are things that are still out there.

But I know they exist. They are valueless though. In the future I’ll have to make an errata page, assuming my readership ever jumps above ten people (it’s not hyperbole if I don’t know the number to begin with!) and brings in any significant amount of money.

For now, slowly going through it again, and again, and again, correcting all the while. As for the past stuff… I’ll correct the most offensive ones if they make a real difference. Otherwise… well, whatever, it’s in the past.

We’re all about growing, after all.

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A proof is superior

One of Nero Wolfe’s statements is really quite profound. And it’s one I’ve heard for years, long before I heard of Mr. Wolfe. It was just in a different form.

When a police official is talking with Wolfe about how certain people couldn’t have done a certain crime, and the problems of eliminating suspects, Wolfe corrects him.

Wolfe doesn’t eliminate suspects. He proves guilt. He’s not looking for who didn’t do it. He’s only looking to find who did it. If it’s needed, he may also find some proof they did it.

But chew on that for a bit: he’s there to only prove who did the crime. He’s not checking alibis to eliminate suspects. Why bother eliminating suspects when all you need to do is find out who did the crime and prove it?

On some level it sounds the same. After all, if a certain person or persons did it, then the other suspects are eliminated anyways. But the methodology is quite different. Instead of looking at each person and figuring out if they did or didn’t do it, you’re looking at each possibility and finding the correct one that establishes the truth of the matter.

How to make this simple? There’s an analogy I’ve heard before that fits this perfectly. And you know what, there’s a Mythbusters segment that also gives weight to this.

First the analogy. Teaching cashiers to spot fake dollars. Instead of showing them counterfeits and how to find them, the thought is to teach them how to confirm a real dollar is real. Voila, you’re no longer proving it’s not a counterfeit, you’re having them prove the dollar is real. Much less to remember. No elimination of various routes required. Prove guilt (prove real dollar), and it eliminates the innocent (counterfeit).

And here Rex Stout was having Nero Wolfe prove that point repeatedly in the 30s.

The Mythbusters segment? It was testing whether people really knew the back of their hands, like the expression goes. I know it like the back of my hand!

Turns out that yes, people know the back of their hands quite well. But here’s the part of the segment that exemplified the superiority of proving truths. The people were shown several hands on a wall, and were asked to pick their own out. These false hands were chosen to look similar to the original. First, the result was that people did find their own hand.

But the second part is the important part: most people found their hand quickly. Very, very quickly. In fact, it looks like once they found their hand, they didn’t bother checking the other photos to make sure. They saw it, knew it was theirs, and picked it out. Yes, they were wearing gloves to make sure they couldn’t check. Also interesting point of note: they didn’t know palms as well!.

It looks like they were doing the same thing as the prior examples. Find their hand (real dollar / true criminal), and then they don’t need to eliminate the other hands (various counterfeits / non-guilty suspects).

There are times that proving the truth is difficult given certain evidence (take the court systems for example, where a lot of the time all that the court can do is eliminate as many falsities as possible), but it doesn’t change that a superior method to elimination of non-truths is a proof of the real truth.

That’s quite an interesting way of looking at various problems.

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EC 8

They arrived at Peterson’s; only Peterson was home. The rest of his family was staying at a hotel. He was too, but he made an effort to show up at his place to help Chance and Turner out.

He looked haggard, as one could expect from a man that’d just lost a child. He looked defeated, as one could expect from a man whose child had been targeted by a killer. He looked ashamed, as one could expect of a man whose work was possibly the direct cause of his child’s murder. Poor guy, all who knew him or who’d hear of him would think. And when he does find out the real reason, what reassurance could it be, to think his child had died for such a reason? Until then, he helps Chance and Turner.

He invited them in and showed them around, asking if they needed something to drink before going to the scene of the incident.

“No thanks, Peterson. Really, you don’t have to,” Chance said.

“No, it’s my job. This guy killed my kid. I’d like to string him up myself. But I’ve got the rest to look out for. I’m sorry, Chance, Turner,” Peterson said. He sounded humbler than he had ever been in the past. Chance had to look at the guy, the detective that was rather haughty and always laughing prior to now. He’d been defeated, but there was still a burning, a fire of desire to get the guy he’d been chasing for months.

“Don’t overwork yourself, and don’t worry about us,” Turner said. “We’ll find him.”

“Thanks Turner. I don’t know how I could relax now, but knowing you’re on it gives me hope. We’ve been on this guy for a while. I know if it’s you, you’ll pick up where we left off without a hitch,” Peterson said. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was still shaky, but he was regaining some of his color. He looked down for a moment, and then looked up at the two of them with a stoic expression. The cop was back.

“This guy is professional,” Peterson started. He was out of his father mode, managing to briefly push that part of himself away while he gave the facts.

“The files say as much,” Chance said. He gave a brief look at Turner, as if to say “look, I read them,” but Turner didn’t look at him. He just stared at Peterson without much of an expression.

“We tried to be thorough, but there was only so much to report. Various killing methods makes him different than most other serial killers. In fact, he does a lot of things different. He doesn’t have much of a pattern. Until, until my boy, there wasn’t a pattern or reason to his madness. Only two things, until now, were consistent. First, that there wasn’t a struggle prior to the attempt on each victim’s life. We never figured that part out. Second, a note was left that apologized for the killing. Everybody knows that much, it’s why he’s called The Apologist,” Peterson said.

“No struggles and a note. The first implies familiarity, but the file didn’t find any connections between the victims, until now, right? But what about the notes?” Chance asked.

“Hand-written, all capitals, on a standard sheet of paper, all with black ink,” Turner said.

“That wasn’t in the news, right?” Chance asked. Turner sighed a bit; Chance hadn’t fully read the files.

“Right,” Peterson said, “since we don’t want copycats. Analysis on the paper was useless, it was too common, purchasable everywhere. Handwriting in capitals is neat but there aren’t any habits or flaws in it. If anything, it’s too neat, but we just assume that means the killer was trying extra hard to obscure he standard writing style,” Peterson said.

“What about the ink?” Chance said.

Turner grunted once, and then reached into his coat and pulled out a pen.

“One of these,” Turner said. He handed it over to Chance.

“You’re kidding,” Chance said.

“Nope. It was written with one of those,” Turner said. He took his pen back from Chance. “Even I have one.”

“I got a package of those at home too,” Chance said. “So it was written on standard paper with quite possibly the most common pen in the city, that pretty much every house has a pack of ten of in a drawer somewhere. Just great. Anything else?”

“You’re getting the idea,” Peterson said, looking grim. “But there is something of note. A couple of them, the way they were done, and this latest one seem to indicate a few things about our guy. A couple traits.”

“They are?” Chance asked.

“Nunez came up with it, and looking at the cases I had to agree. We already know a killer’s gotta have something wrong with him, I mean, who else could do such terrible things? But looking at it, we think he’s a narcissist.”

“How can you tell?” Chance asked.

“The timing and some of the victims. You’ll notice that killings take place soon after a major news event. And then he’s at the top of the news again. Sure enough, when enough time passes and no major news of him comes along he strikes again. This time was no different. I have to believe that. I have to, to keep going on. Think about it, what’s taking up the news recently?” Peterson asked.

“Celebrity murder. That, this is disturbing,” Chance said. He had to shake his head.

“Indeed. Narcissist? Crazy,” Turner said.

“We’ve got a few other ideas about him, but you can get them from the file,” Peterson said. Chance could tell he was getting shaken up again.

“All right Peterson, I think we’ve heard enough for now. Mind if we go check things out for now?” Chance asked.

“Yeah. Down the hall. I’m gonna head to the hotel and beg for forgiveness from God and my wife,” Peterson said with a forced fake smile. He headed out, and Chance and Turner got up to go investigate the rest of the premises.

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EC NaNo Hiatus, EC non-hiatus

I fought the NaNo, and didn’t win. Because I’ve quickly grown to hate the idea of having to write a full story in a month, and I’ve modified my life so that if I hate something I stop doing it instead of thinking I must continue it anyways, NaNoWriMo this year is a failure. I could continue, but that’d do the story a disservice, and would likely end up with it going on a shelf, never to see commercialization, for I’d detest the process too much.

So for the sake of possibly continuing it in the future, especially considering I have an ending all thought out, I’m ending the NaNoWriMo portion. And if it does get done, it’ll be much, much shorter than 50,000 words, the NaNo requirement. It may end up a single short story that rushes through the plot at a bullet’s pace. Which it already was doing. In fact. I may just continue that way after all. Forget NaNoWriMo, forget 50,000 words. Forget even writing it as a narrated book.

You see, I have something I’m already doing. But that’s not important. I know that for most of my projects, when I sit in front of the keyboard I can come up with some words. For Evergreen Cherry, it’s different. I knew that if I’d continue NaNo’s requirements, I’d stop too short. Better to not do at all, right? Well, better to just write it out, now that I think of it. I wonder what the format will be.

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EC 6-7 11/03

Turner was handling the transcripts from the interviews with the victim’s spouses. He had poked and prodded at the slight inconsistencies in their testimony, but every angle ended up covered when their memories were working right. None had disclosed by accident some vital information, and any slip-ups were simple rounding errors. They too were busy with their popular lives, and it was only expected that the exact accounting of their time had to be recorded in notebooks rather than recalled from memory.

Nothing more than little slips, the kind where they mentioned drinking a coffee and eating a donut, except they had actually eaten the donut first and drunk the coffee second. Inane, stupid things that were even a source of frustration for Chance.

But it all fit. Those spouses, as angry as they were at supposing their mates were cheating, had schedules that kept them out of rooms where they could disappear unaware, phones that hadn’t made any secret calls to some sort of hit-man, and enough GPS data from the devices that never left their side to rule out any sort of suspicion whatsoever.

It’s best to just summarize the agony here, as ultimately it proved futile to pin anything on one of the spouses. The immediate and ultimately true answer was that they had nothing to do with Ivan and Patricia’s death, and when the detectives came to that conclusion they felt beaten.

Three days had gone by since the deaths, and not a body was in custody for them. Which was making everyone antsy, media and all.

7

“You’re kidding! I mean, it’s annoying to deal with, but that’s not really a problem, they all are. Why, chief?” Chance asked.

“I said to stop and listen to everything I had to say, Chance! Now sit down!” yelled the chief. Turner hadn’t jumped, he was still in his chair watching Chance’s reaction.

“It better be good! I’ve got a theory going that I think’ll actually get us somewhere, the past week has been pretty enlightening! Another week, no, three days and we’ll get something solid on it and a body in custody. I mean, I got this one crazed fan we’ve been looking into,” Chance said.

“I said shut up and listen!”

Chance took his cue from the chief and sat down. He crossed his arms and huffed. A little explanation is in order. Chance and Turner had been pulled off the celebrity case. The chief only got that far until Chance interrupted him. As for why, that was about to come. But let’s be upfront: this case only served to get the ball rolling on the real problems Chance was about to find himself facing. He wasn’t the only one annoyed at the lack of progress, and one of those people happed to dislike all the media attention the celebrity case was getting, and decided to do something about it. The chief started explaining.

“Chance, this isn’t the time. We’ve got a problem. A major one. One shocking enough to give me the biggest headache this year has yet seen, and it’ll be a shocker for you. You notice how Peterson and Nunez didn’t come to the office this morning?” the chief asked.

“Nothing strange about that,” Chance said.

“Normally, yeah. But what you’re about to hear doesn’t leave this room. It’ll be getting out soon anyways, it’ll be impossible to keep it hushed for long. But even the media guys know better and will keep a lid on it for a bit. New development in the Apologist case. He struck again,” the chief said.

“He struck again?” Chance asked aloud, rhetorically.

“Yeah. It’s not like the rest either. It’s bad this time,” the chief said.

“It’s always bad. Wait, what does this have to do with us? Turner, say something,” Chance said.

“I’ll wait till I hear it all. Once I hear it all I’ll have my outrage and shock and whatever you think is right. But sit down, you’re jumping around so much Chance,” Turner said. He even chuckled slightly.

“Fine. I’m not liking this. Not one bit,” Chance said. He sat down, again, made a motion for the chief to continue, and then crossed his arms.

“Thank you. But you’re not gonna be so offended for long. Again, this is kept quiet. I need you guys on the Apologist case now. Wait until I finish, Chance. Don’t worry, Marks and Wineblock have been following your case pretty well and they just finished up their load, they’ll take care of the celebrity crisis. I know, why not put them on this, you’re asking. Well let’s face it, I think you two are better, and as frustrating as the celebrity case has been, it’s probably easier to figure out. That, and they have family. Listen here, this is the problem we have. Peterson and Nunez aren’t on the case anymore. The latest victim of the Apologist was one of Peterson’s kids,” the chief said.

Chance dropped his arms, and Turner had looked up at the chief. There was a lasting silence while the words sunk in. The news sucked all the energy out of the room, and Chance had all the realizations and implications of this news dawn on him at once. Now he was feeling bad for his constant interruptions of the chief, though it was tempered by his sympathy for Peterson.

“Nunez asked to be taken off, right?” Turner asked.

“Yeah. He’s with Peterson now, but he’s got a kid too. This is bad, you guys,” the chief said.

“We sure it’s him?” Turner asked.

“The note matches. Same as always, apologizing for killing yet another person. No forensic evidence turning up anything different. But to go after the kid of one of the detectives on his case, that’s a new one. Just why, why, I can’t figure out why,” the chief said.

“It was possible for the public to find out who was following the case, if they wished,” Turner said.

“Yeah, it’s been public for a while. But this guy hasn’t targeted like that before. Just why’d he have to come out after one of us. Once the media feels like enough time has passed, this story is going to be front and center. You boys know that,” the chief said.

“I’m not up on the case,” Chance said.

“We’ll have their files soon enough. Get reading,” Turner said.

“This is a mess,” Chance said. He was still looking sore at the news. It was a shock, but he was starting to recover.

“Find him, Chance. Find this guy, and bring him to me. Of all the victims, why. The rest we understood, they fit with his serial killings. But this one, just why? Just leave now, you two. I’ve got some calls to make,” the chief said.

“One more thing,” Chance said, realizing something from their conversation.

“What?” the chief asked.

“You said something about us. You’re not just putting me on this case for my fantastic skills, are you?” Chance asked. The chief grumbled.

“No. You know why,” the chief said.

“Thought so. This is a fine mess,” Chance said. He and Turner rose and left the room.

Turner went to his desk, and Chance stood over him.

“So looks like the bachelors have it,” Chance said. He wore a grim grin. He wasn’t happy, but letting himself fall into the sorrow of it wasn’t going to make things better.

“Shame about Peterson’s boy,” Turner said. “I wish he could’ve been left alone. Poor guy. Losing a child. It’s a shame, Chance. It’s a real shame,” Turner said. He looked down at his desk and just shook his head for a while.

“Yeah Turner, it is. We’ve gotta find this guy. This isn’t right. But not just for Peterson. For all the victims,” Chance said. He thought about it some, and then looked over Turner’s desk. He noticed a picture frame. Without asking he reached for it and took a look. He wasn’t expecting someone’s picture, he knew Turner better than that. But he’d never really taken a look at any of the items Turner kept at his desk. “Is that a tree?”

“Hey Chance, don’t take things that don’t belong to you. Yeah it’s a Juniper,” Turner said.

“You like these? Well, I suppose to each his own. I don’t recognize it. Is this one of the ones that stays green through the winter? Looks familiar,” Chance said.

“This one does, it’s an evergreen. I happen to like them. But anyways, put it back. Quit wasting time and start reading files,” Turner said.

Chance put the picture down. He looked at another couple picture frames by glancing at them briefly, only seeing a couple plants or trees. He remembered the chief’s words, they were both men who were single at the moment. So of course Turner wouldn’t have pictures of family. Well, he was a private man, Chance reasoned, and his past was his to keep. But there was something about Turner’s reaction when he heard about Peterson’s kid that made Chance think. He wished he knew his partner better, but he knew better than to pry too deeply into a man’s past. He cracked open a file at his desk and got to reading, taking photos of the stuff he really wanted to remember for later use.

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