Tag Archives: crime

The Cursed Year, the Year of Bliss

[short story, by Sha’Tara –  part 4]

“The City in the East”

I had to get off here, I had no more money.  This is Montreal, so it is called, but you know?  It’s “The City” because no matter where I go, it’s always the same City.  There’s no escape from the City.  It’s where you go to earn a living and to get beaten into the ground by the Patriarchy.  There is no other place because every other place is an adjunct of the City.  Without the City all the outlying human settlements crumble into dust because the money that sustains the world comes from “The City.” 

This eastern City speaks two languages.  That’s fine, they happen to be the two languages I speak. 

“Pardonnez-moi madame, je cherche un apartement à louer.  Pouvez-vous m’aider?” 

“Mais oui ma chère.  On descends cette rue et voila: les apartements Fontainebleu.  Ils sont bien, et pas trop coûteux”
“Ah, merci bien.” 
“De rien, chérie.  Mon plaisir.”
(“Excuse me ma’am, I’m looking for a rental apartment.  Can you help me?”  
“But of course my dear.  We go down this street and there you are: the Fontainebleu apartments.  They’re nice and not so expensive.”
“Ah, thank you so much.”
“It’s nothing honey.  My pleasure.”)

Easy.  I find an apartment I like and leave without committing to anything.  I need to find a job now.  I need money.

As I thought it wasn’t hard to find a position with a newspaper.  Just enough money to pay rent and bus fare to work and back.  A beginning.  No, I mean another beginning.  And life resumes “this petty pace from day to day to the last syllables of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.”  (McBeth – Shakespeare)

I feel weighted down with my own thoughts; thoughts of death.  I feel a cold that doesn’t come from outside and I’m alone and so terribly lonely.  It’s as if my life has been taken and placed on a sacrificial altar.  And little wonder: I’m a proof reader and the news I read over are enough to crush the toughest boulder.  How can they stand it?  How can they do these things; how can they write these things?  How can they read these things?

And then, after shutting off the TV and turning off the lights, as I get ready for sleep in my “new” apartment, in my little single bed with the bad and noisy springs, I begin to relive some of my own experiences.  How can they?  They can because they can’t humanely relate to the stories they observe, write up and read.  They have no empathy, even less compassion.  Horror and terror; torture and death: they enjoy it.  They like it.  Icing on the daily grind cake.  And there’s money in it, lots of money.  Death and destruction are always profitable.   

Letters to the editor, some comments I run across make my blood run cold.

“It’s happening to them, not to me: why? Because they deserve it. 
“It’s OK, they’re used to that way of life; you can’t help them.
“Why do they keep having so many kids they can’t feed anyway? 
“They’re lazy, that’s why they live in squalor. 
“They don’t care about their kids; they sell them as slave labour or prostitutes for cash or cows. 
“The world’s better off without them. 
“They could have a democracy if they wanted it.
“They don’t want to understand the values that make us great.
“They’re all guerrillas and terrorists and they’ll just as soon kill you as look at you.  If it were up to me I’d nuke ‘em all.”

And I ask myself, here in the dark with a weak street lamp testing my threadbare curtain: who are the real terrorists?  The question grinds away in my brain and I can’t sleep.  Finally it hit me: I have a calling.  And, I need to find another job, as a reporter.  I need to write my own stories again.  I need to gather material, evidence, facts.  Impulsively and agitatedly I get up, get dressed for the bitter cold of a night in a windy city, and I step outside in the misty yellow haloes of street lights.  No wind tonight.  I start walking, down towards the docks, the forbidden territories of gangs and derelicts. 

I feel the call and I’m no longer scared of being grabbed and raped, beaten and killed, or left for dead.  Suddenly I’m immune; Wonder Woman; all powerful.  But my inner strength doesn’t come from the illegal switchblade I’m holding tightly in my coat pocket – it’s from realising that my personal life isn’t what’s worth defending now: it’s “their” life that demands it of me.  It’s “them” who are waiting for me to speak up for justice, to expose the major sins of the City.  And in my head I’m writing again.  Story after story pile on and in my head I’m sitting at my small table, with my small typewriter and on my cheap yellow paper I’m writing my very large story for a very large audience.

Let the games begin I think to myself as my footsteps on the uneven sidewalks echo against the dark facades of derelict tenements abandoned by the City fathers, the banks, construction companies and their surroundings no longer in the care of the City’s maintenance crews; forgotten in fact by everybody except those who hide inside their depleted shells.  The old, the unemployed, the sick, the addicts, the wanted and the unwanted; the prostitutes now out plying their ubiquitous trade somewhere in more prosperous and better lighted sectors of the City. 

I think, this is going to be my world from now on until I’ve understood it and written my stories describing its sins and exposing its stinking underbelly. And I can just imagine, if I had any friends, or family in this City, what they would think, and say, about my wanderings tonight.  I admit to myself, I’m certifiable for coming down here alone in the night.  But I remember that Eureka moment some moments ago and some things just cannot be explained.  Some things are bigger than us yet insist on being borne by our weak flesh.  I’m pregnant with purpose; I’ve engendered a story.  Nothing can stop me except my own cowardice.  

[end of part 4 – the city in the east]


Spilled Wine, a murder mystery, in short.


Spilled Wine

A murder mystery, in short – by Sha’Tara

The wine glass was tipped over on the soft white carpet and a dark red stain had spread away from it.  Beside the bed lay a man in later years, casually dressed, his shoes off, looking for all the world as if he’d just gone to sleep.  His face was towards the window and it had a slight smile.  Half closed blue eyes seemed to stare at something outside.  Despite the fact that he was very dead, in fact that he’d been dead for several hours, perhaps as long as a day, he seemed to be in a state of complete repose.  To the police investigator staring at his prone body he seemed to say, “Please don’t disturb me; this is the most peaceful I’ve been in my entire life.”

Police detective Josh Erwin took in the scene and after consulting his procedure manual and talking with Rose Whitecliff at the station, put on his gloves and stepped into the bedroom where the dead body of John Marshall lay in his unprepossessing and very quiet way.  Forensics medical examiner, Doctor Donald Signals was on his way from Bonnerville so Cpl. Erwin’s job was to look at the scene of the incident and write a preliminary report, take some pictures and secure the scene from prying eyes, meaning from Vicky Spears from “Good Morning Hamersley TV.”  She had managed to discover the “situation” even before the cops heard anything.  Cpl. Erwin thought she was creepy, the way she always seemed to ferret out a crime before the police did, and how accurately she could re-construct a scene on her i-pad. 

“C’mon Josh, let me have a look.  I can help you figure this out before Signals gets here with his paraphernalia and head-scratching propositions.  I bet I can tell you what happened, when it happened and maybe even why it happened.”

 “Sorry Vicky but this could be a real murder here and I’ve got to protect the integrity of the scene.  I can’t let you in here.”

 “Ok, but it’s your funeral.  I’m just going to go to my car, drive down to Starbucks, get a great cappuccino, come back here, park in the driveway and write my story while you wait for someone else to tell you the facts you should be able to put together yourself.  I’ll have the story ready to air before your expert gets his stuff together and comes up with his usual platitudes and long shots.  I know what happened here, Josh.” 

He tried to sound angry but it was all exasperation.  He knew she’d guess, and he knew with even greater certainty that she’d be right… again. “Not this time Vicky.  I’m serious.  Get lost, and I don’t care if you can guess the nature of what we’re looking at here because it will still be nothing but a guess.  Enjoy your cappuccino.”

She shrugged and went to her car.  The H-RV spun around with a slight squeal of angry tires and disappeared around the curve heading to Main Street.  Cpl. Erwin glanced at the scene once more and began to scratch his head so hard his cap went flying.  While he bent down to retrieve it, he saw something dark under the only dresser in the room.  Should he reach for it, or wait?  He was smarting from Vicky Spears’ mocking and he decided then and there to break a rule.  He reached under the dresser with his gloved hand and grasped the black item.  It was a very light, very strange looking handgun that looked like a Beretta.  He looked at it in the light from the window and realized it was a clever imitation.  It was in fact a water pistol. 

 If anything, one could not call Cpl. Erwin too intelligent, let alone bright.  He was a true cop; a by-the-book kind of cop who was actually quite out of his depth in temporary charge of Hamersley’s police department consisting of himself and two well-meaning deputies who also volunteered as Hamersley’s five volunteer fire department brigade.  The sheriff was away south and on holidays, and incommunicado.

Anyway, Cpl. Erwin was looking at the water pistol and wondering how that could tie in with the death of John Marshall.  Then he smiled to himself as he carefully put the toy back where he’d found it.  Kids.  Obviously Marshall’s grandson had been around recently and had been playing with the water pistol.  Not wanting to be punished for spraying water on the furniture or the carpet he’d quickly hid the gun under the dresser when John Marshall came into the room.  That made sense.  Let Vicky Spears come up with something better. 

True to her words, Vicky returned and parked in the Marshall driveway, far enough back so she wouldn’t be forced to move when the forensics team arrived, which it did a couple of minutes later.  Vicky sipped on her coffee and watched, all the while writing her story, “John Marshall was found dead in his home this morning.  Foul play is suspected although the only sign of anything out of the ordinary is a tipped over wine glass beside the body in the bedroom.”  Let’s see what the numbnuts from Bonnerville come up with this time.  Just for a laugh she continued, “…a UFO was seen rising from the roof of Marshall’s house by old Mrs. O’Connor.  “It was shaped like a button,” she said, “and it spun like crazy.  I sure wouldn’t want to be riding in that kind of contraption, it’d make you so dizzy you’d get sick for sure.  Seems kind of retarded technology to me.  But who can tell with aliens?  Now what was I saying?  Oh yes, young John Marshall, he was always going on about aliens and UFO’s, well I’m one up on him now, aren’t I?  And right up over his own house too.” 

There was a hard tap on her window and she looked up to see Josh Erwin motioning her to roll it down.  She did.  

“Sorry but you’re in the way.  We got an ambulance coming in and more people to check over the place.  You’ll have to move out onto the street.”  

“You’re going to give yourself a heart attack being so serious Josh.  I’ll move, don’t worry.  I’ve got my story anyway, no thanks to you.  What did your expert come up with: aliens with ray guns?  Drone attack with subsonic weapons?” 

“I shouldn’t be sayin’ but they suspect poison.  Murder.  No motive, no suspect yet, but we’re moving on that.  We’ve contacted the FBI.”

 “The FBI no less.  My, my, this is becoming absolutely fascinating.  Let me get my headline here:  Retired bird watcher and dog trainer, John Marshall was murdered in his house.  Police suspect poison was used.  They have no idea what kind of poison, how it was administered, who the suspect or suspects are, nor any motive whatsoever for killing him… The scuttlebutt is that he was involved in the drug trade.  The FBI is being brought in to look for more bodies buried about the place.”

“Come on Vicky, that’s not fair.  We’ve just started here.  In a day or two we’ll have some real evidence and then I’ll let you in on it.  Hold your story for 24 hours, OK?”

 “18 hours, Josh.  Just for you.  But I already know exactly what happened to John Marshall.  I know who killed him, or maybe I should say, what killed him.”

“I’m not buying it Vicky, this is serious stuff.  Move your car back onto the street or I’m having you towed.” 

“OK, but that’s not the way to go here Josh.  I was trying to give you a leg up the chain of command.”  Again the shiny black H-RV spun around with squealing tires and parked on the street overlooking the Marshall driveway.  Vicky spoke into her phone recorder, then continued typing on her i-pad.

To make a long story short, Dr. Donald Signals insisted that John Marshall’s death was not accidental; that some sort of subtle poison had been administered causing heart failure.  Preliminary analysis of the wine revealed no foreign substance.  No evidence was found that anyone other than Marshall had been in the house for at least a week before his death.  He was last seen walking to his truck and driving back in the direction of his house.  He had been carrying a shopping bag according to a witness who’d waved at him from Marie’s Emporium.  He hadn’t waved back.  The witness said he appeared preoccupied and had a “worried” look on his face.  A day later a couple of FBI agents came to the house to investigate.  Cpl. Erwin stated he was not at liberty to reveal what the agents discovered.  Investigations are on-going.

Meanwhile Vicky Spears had been unspooling her own story and version of events, much to the chagrin of the Hamersley police squad.  Here’s the gist of the last of her TV broadcasts on the John Marshall murder.

“Good morning folks.  It’s another lovely day in Hamersley today and I hope all of you get to enjoy it.  As you all know by now, we had a death in Hamersley a few days ago.  Our very quiet and reclusive Mr. John Marshall was found dead in his house and the police and apparently the FBI all insisted, without any evidence by the way, that Mr. Marshall was murdered.  Poisoned in fact, said Dr. Donald Signals, Bonnerville’s forensic expert and coroner on loan to our investigative team.  Was any poison found?  No.  Were there any signs of anyone but Mr. Marshall having been in the house at the time of his death, or previously, as far back as a week ago?  No.  Oh, they did find a hidden weapon in the house.  Are you ready for this?  They found John Marshall’s grandson’s water pistol hidden under the dresser in the same bedroom where Mr. Marshall’s body was found.  Did the water pistol, then, contain any liquid with poison in it?  No.  It was quite dry and quite empty and all it had ever had in it was tap water. 

 Oh, but wait, that’s not all.  There was a wine glass fallen over on the floor next to the body.  Red wine had spilled into the carpet leaving a bit of a mess.  OK, was there any residue of some exotic poison in the spilled wine?  No.  After much wrangling with our own very dedicated by-the-book Cpl Erwin I was finally allowed to have a look a the bedroom where the “murder” took place.  Except for the purple stain in the carpet there really was nothing to see.  Quite an ordinary room laid out in quite an ordinary way. 

Now folks, I don’t want to come across as some know-it-all and I don’t want to make our police look silly, or the boys from the Federal Bureau of Indiscretion either… but, really, murder?  So I did my usual woman’s intuition thing and you ladies are going to enjoy this, went about looking for the obvious.  You know, the kind of evidence which generally shakes the truth out of the tree after our professional investigators have climbed all over it and seen nothing but suspicious fruit dangling from it? 

I won’t deny it, I dated John a few times.  He was a really nice guy but a bit too reclusive for the likes of lil’ ol’ me, if you know what I mean, (“wink”) so I know that John had a very serious allergy to certain types of pectin.  Usually when we went out and had a drink, John would drink beer and I, red wine.  I love a good red wine, well, who wouldn’t?  But John was careful about his drinks.  He’d drink wine only when absolutely sure of what it contained. 

 Now you’ll remember that the police witness from Marie’s Emporium, no other than our beloved librarian, Josie Archambeau, said that John had appeared preoccupied and had a worried look on his face.  Also you will remember that she said he was carrying a shopping bag.

So, let’s just thread the needle and start sewing here.  John is “worried” about something, and I’d be willing to bet it’s about a dog he’d trained that had misbehaved and he felt terribly responsible.  I knew John and I can sense this.  He walks into Harvey’s Liquor Barn and grabs a bottle of wine.  It is red wine but as I said before, John knew his brands.  So he grabbed a bottle he “knew” to be safe without asking any questions, paid for it, and took it home.  He had a glass that evening just as he was getting ready for bed.  But that wine was from a batch produced by a different winery and it happened to contain a trace of the very pectin John was allergic to.  The murderer, folks, is that bottle of wine. 

 I’ve already told our great investigators this and indeed they found the pectin in the left over wine.  They also contacted our dear Dr. Wells and he confirmed that the pectin found in the wine could cause cardiac arrest in someone like John.  And that, folks, is a case closed.  And for you girls who were hoping that our esteemed FBI agents were going to be around through the weekend and maybe invite them to the dance or your wild midnight parties at the lake, well they’re heading back to the office.  Sorry about that.

Here’s to you, friend John.  For a quiet guy you sure chose a noisy departure.  What a way to go!