WE’LL WORK ON THAT

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

The place was dark. Very dark, all things considered. The whole house seemed closed off into small compartments. However there was still light streaming in from a full moon by a window to the right of the room.

Precisely why Steinthal had chosen this night. He knew that because of the full moon his night vision equipment could make good use of the available ambient and residual light and he could operate “in the dark” without giving himself away.

Time to put on my googles he thought.

He heard a small creak.

Instinctively he ducked low but something still hit him from behind and from his left. It had struck the top of his shoulder, the backside of his neck and the base of his skull. It was wide whatever it was. And it had only been a glancing blow but Steinthal saw a flash from the impact, heard a ring in his ear, and stumbled forward a few feet. Then as he caught his balance he ran forward another five or six feet and swirled as fast as he could recover.

Someone stood there. A big someone. Big and dark. If it had growled Steinthal might have taken it for a bear. As it was Steinthal thought it might be even more dangerous.

The thing seemed to just pause there as if considering what to do next. Steinthal’s head cleared completely and he started to make for his gun when the shape charged. It came in close almost instantly and surprised Steinthal, not with a jab or a horizontal swing, but with a ferocious right uppercut. Steinthal barely had time to react but twisted some and got his left arm stiffened and intercepted the shot down low. That took most of the punch out but the guy was still so strong that he lifted Steinthal onto the balls of his feet just from the sheer momentum.

Steinthal counterpunched furiously with his right. Hit the guy solidly on the left side of the front of his neck. It should have rocked the guy on his heels, caused him to splutter and choke. He hadn’t hit the trachea but it still would have stunned most men.

As it was the only two things that seemed to happen as far as Steinthal could tell was that it made a sound like the guy had been hit with a wet fish, and the man stepped back one step. He hadn’t even bent over.

Realizing fully what he was now facing, Steinthal swiftly backtracked three or four feet and grabbed his revolver with his right and his combat knife with his left. He had only glanced down for an instance to retrieve his weapons but when he looked up the guy already had a semiautomatic in one hand and a shiny machete in the other. Where the machete had come from Steinthal had no idea but it did impress him.

The guy was now closer to the moonlight. You could partially make him out. Steinthal decided he wasn’t big after all. He was monstrous. But he didn’t look stupid. No, there was a kind of set to his face and a sort of light in his eyes that Steinthal took for real and raw intelligence. Even more dangerous.

There were several moments of tense silence while they pointed their weapons at each other.

“That kind of hurt for such a little fella,” the big guy suddenly said and spit. There might have been some blood mixed in but it was too dark to tell. “What’s your name?”

“Huh?” Steinthal said.

“I said, ‘what’s your name.’ I don’t like having to repeat myself.”

Steinthal cleared his throat.

“John,” he replied. “But most everyone calls me Steinthal.”

The guy seemed to mull over the answer.

“Yeah, you’re the one,” he said as if mentally verifying a fact-sheet.

“What one?” Steinthal asked.

“The one I’m meant to kill tonight,” the big guy said.

“Well then,” Steinthal said. “You’re one up on me. I usually know nothing about most of the people I kill until it is all over.
“Why is that?” the big guy asked.

“Because they tend to ambush me,” replied Steinthal.

The big guy chuckled quietly.

“Well then, are you going to shoot me?” he asked.

“I’d rather not,” Steinthal said warily. “But at this point anything seems possible.”

Seemingly to spite himself the big guy chuckled again.

“I like you.” The big guy said. “You’re funny.”

“Trust me,” Steinthal said. “I’m not trying to be, but if helps any then let’s just go with that.”

The big guy seemed blithe. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to snap your neck, but now I sort of like you.”

Steinthal noticed that despite the relaxed and easy going tone of the man’s voice his aim had remained absolutely fixed and his breathing so steady that he seemed motionless. Even while he spoke.

“Yeah, well,” said Steinthal “We all do what we can.”

The guy laughed again. If not for the circumstances then to Steinthal this would have seemed ridiculous.

When the guy finished laughing he said, “Seems kind of a shame now though.”

“Don’t it,” said Steinthal. “But, you know, the guns and all…”

The big guy looked at Steinthal’s revolver.

“I’ve been shot before you know,” he said. “By a lot bigger and more powerful weapons than that. Never killed me.”

“I’ll bet,” said Steinthal. “But there’s always that first time. And I’m pretty damned determined.”

“Also I’m armored,” said the big guy, as if he hadn’t noticed Steinthal’s reply.

“Thanks for the heads up,” said Steinthal. “Now I know where not to aim.”

There was silence again. But no movement.

“Say,” Steinthal finally said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the distinct feeling you’re not just playing for time here. Do you get the idea that there might be something else going on with this whole affair that neither of us are quite square on? And that maybe we should skip the strangulations and compare notes about in private?”

More silence. But then the big guy shrugged nonchalantly and holstered his gun. It kind of disappeared entirely into the huge black mound that was his chest. But the machete remained. And the guy had never even shifted his gaze.

“Maybe… Probably… Yes. I’ve had that idea for some time now,” he said. “But I didn’t want to make any snap judgements.”

“Yeah,” Steinthal said. “It’s one of the things I appreciate most about you.”

“People think I’m stupid, you know. Because I’m so big,” the big guy said. With a kind of sad resignation that seemed almost fatalistic.

“Well fella,” said Steinthal. “I’m not most people. And whereas you are stupefyingly big, you are most definitely not stupid.”

The guy chuckled again. Then sighed softly.

“You going to lower your gun now?” the big guy asked.

“I’m thinking about it, but, you know, I’m not exactly stupid either.”

The machete clattered to the floor.

“Very nice. Now can you do that with your hands, arms, and most of the rest of you as well?”

The guy smiled in the dark. And it seemed completely friendly.

“Probably not. I come this way,” he said.

“Alright then. I’ll just take your word for it.” And Steinthal holstered his gun and knife.

“Say,” Steinthal said relaxing a little. “Since you know so much about me what say you tell me your name?”

“You’ll laugh,” the big guy replied.

“Well, if I do, then don’t take it personally. I have an excellent sense of humor.”

“Okay then. It’s Maugham,” said the big guy. “William Somerset Maugham. But my friends call me Angus.”

Steinthal whistled. “Well I’ll be damned. I’ve read all your books!

“Yeah,” the big guy looked sheepishly at the ground. “My mother was real big on literature.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Steinthal said. “But say, you’re a lot bigger in person than you look in the papers. Or the history books.”

“Yeah, I hear that a lot. Well, not a lot. Not recently anyway. Most people don’t read anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s a real shame, ain’t it? But that being what it is I’m not calling you Angus or Bill either,” Steinthal said.

“Well then, what are you going to call me?”

“I’m gonna call you Maugham,” said Steinthal. “Because you remind me of W. Somerset Maugham. If, you know, he had been as big as a damned Angus.”

Maugham nodded.

“What say though we get outta here now Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Before they send in a troll?”

Maugham shrugged. “Okay. I’m game if you are.”

As they were sneaking out Steinthal said, “Say, what you said back there. Is that true?”

“Is what true?” asked Maugham.

“Do you really have friends?”

Maugham stopped in his tracks and seemed to mull over the question quietly in his mind before replying.

“You know, I’m not really sure.”

“Well,” said Steinthal. “The night is still young. We’ll work at it awhile. Then see what we can come up with. One thing’s for sure though.”

“What’s that?” asked Maugham.

“After tonight I owe you one. If you’ll take friendship as payment then I’ll sure call it square.”

(This is the first meeting between Steinthal and Maugham.)

From The Detective Steinthal.

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IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

“Yeah, well now, time might not heal all wounds but it will either significantly assure that you will succeed on time, or dramatically increase the odds that you won’t. Now how that works out precisely is pretty much up to you, but if I were you I’d spend less time bitching about your wounds and more time getting your ass up off the ground so we can succeed in getting the hell outta here.”

The Detective Steinthal

OLD MAN FUNNY

OLD MAN FUNNY

Maugham laughed at the smartass remark, and then said, “Man, I wish I were as naturally funny as you.”

“Natural, hell,” Steinthal answered shaking his head. “My old man bred it into me. Nothing natural about that.”

Maugham looked at his friend quizzically.

“Seems like to me,” Maugham said almost reprovingly. “That there is everything natural about that.”

Steinthal looked at his friend as if considering what he had said.

“Yeah, you got a point I guess,” Steinthal replied. “But you’d just have to know my old man. He bred funny.”

from The Detective Steinthal

AND THEN THEY ATE

AND THEN THEY ATE…

“You know what I’ve always loved most about you?” she said reaching for his hand across the table. “You never judged me. You always just accepted me as I am.”

He accepted her hand, and held it gently but shook his head dubiously.

“No, my dear,” he said flatly. “You are entirely wrong on both accounts, and could not be further from the actual truth.”

She withdrew her hand in surprise, a deepening frown creasing her puzzled brow.

“What do you mean?” she said nervously.

“I mean I judged you constantly,” Steinthal said. “I still do. That is what I do. I watch people. I study people. I come to understand a person, and then I judge them. In a brutally honest fashion. I judge everyone this way, including myself. You are certainly no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact there are no exceptions to the rule.”

“Oh,” she said hollowly.

He looked at her intently, staring relentlessly into her face for a moment, and then continued.

“I am no modern man,” he said, as if reading the barometric pressure on a gauge before a storm. “I do not believe in the ‘man without judgment.’ The man without judgment is simply another term for an absolute fool. I am no fool my dear, and when it comes to judgment I attempt to do something far braver and much more vital than avoid judging people, I seek to judge them accurately and in truth.”

She looked down at her plate as if suddenly uncomfortable, or in shame. There was a long pause while she tried to think of what to say. Not knowing how to respond she whispered out loud and to herself,

“What must you think of me then?”

He nodded slightly, though she did not see it. He waited a moment to see if she would say anything else or look up but she did not.

“Since you asked I will tell you precisely what I think of you and how I have judged you,” Steinthal replied, accepting her unintended cue. “I adjudged you in this way. I never accepted you as ‘you were,’ and I will not in the future. Furthermore I judged you not for what you were, but for what I fully suspected you could be. I did not take you for how you appeared, but for how it appeared to me that you could be, if you ever decided you would. And as far as I can see, you did. And did rather well at it. Does that really surprise you?”

She looked up again and stared at Steinthal, but whether more in shock or gratitude neither was certain.

This time he offered his hand across the table.

“I like to think of myself as a very good judge of character,” he told her. “And of potential. I would not waste my time or effort with or upon anyone who did not demonstrate an aptitude for both. So, do not prove me wrong and I shall not have to judge you otherwise. And that will be more than enough for me, assuming it is enough for you.”

She looked into his eyes and could find no hint of guile, or of misdirection. He seemed perfectly sincere. And it occurred to her, maybe for the very first time, just how perfectly sincere he usually was.

She reached back across the table, took his hand, smiled, and said softly, “I think I love you.”

He gently squeezed her hand in reply.

“I am aware of that,” he said.

She kept smiling but sighed with a deep resignation.

“Though you truly can be something of a real bastard.”

“I am aware of that as well,” he said, smiling in return.

Then he dropped her hand and took up his fork. He pointed it at her.

“But how bout we eat now and save the romance for later? After all we have the entire evening, and this meal is hardly the limit of my current ambitions.”

She laughed and took up her own fork.

And then they ate.

from The Detective Steinthal

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Note: this was not the scene I had intended to write tonight, but my router blew out and that delayed me working on the other scene and since this one seemed to flow kinda nicely I just worked it instead.

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

“Maugham, do you remember that time a few years back when I drew my revolver on you and shot you in the face with a blank round?”

“Hell yes I do,” said Maugham. “Scared the shit out of me. I thought you were really going to shoot me.”

“I did shoot you, you idiot. Just not with a bullet. But tell me, what lesson did you draw from that?”

Maugham looked at his friend, then squinted.

“Never assume I guess,” he answered.

“Then you drew the wrong lesson. The real lesson was ‘always assume.’ That the other person is dangerous. Cause they are.” Steinthal countered.

Maugham looked thoughtful for a moment.

“What are you saying then?”

“I’m saying that just because she is pretty and sexy, and nice, and smells good, is fine in bed and is maybe even sincere doesn’t mean she won’t shoot you in the face. If she needs or wants to. As a matter of fact maybe she already has and you’ve been too busy or too stupid to notice.”

Maugham looked thoughtful again. That’s twice in one day Steinthal thought. Hat trick coming?

“Yeah, I guess love will do that to you,” Maugham finally conceded.

“Or being pussy-whipped by the wrong woman,” Steinthal said. “Or, even the right one. Take it from a man who knows.”

Maugham nodded as if he agreed, at least in theory. After a moment or two of silence though he turned sinister to look straight at his friend.

“By the way. I never asked you Steinthal. Why did you shoot me in the face with that blank?”

“Because someone else tried it on me.”

“They shot you in the face with a blank,” Maugham asked, kind of surprised.

“Not exactly,” Steinthal said. “They tried to shoot me in the face with a live round. Luckily they missed.”

“Was it a lady?” Maugham asked.

“Hard to say,” Steinthal replied. “You never really know about that kind of thing nowadays, do ya?”

Maugham laughed.

“So then, you were trying to forewarn me?”

Steinthal smiled broadly. Then he clapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Maybe. That, or I just needed the practice. You can never get too much practice shooting someone in the face.”

“Yeah,” said Maugham kind of wistfully. “I’ve had the same thought myself once or twice.”

Steinthal smiled again. But this time he kept it to himself.

from The Detective Steinthal

GOOD NIGHT LADIES…

GOOD NIGHT LADIES…

“Oh, I understand you completely madam, but, perhaps not in the way you presume I do. You see the thing that may disturb me the most, it certainly repulses me the most, about you supposedly ‘civilized people‘ is that you are always unfailingly polite, and extremely well-mannered, and pretentiously and profusely diplomatic. Your high ideals are on constant display for all to hear, and although I rarely see them or detect them in actual action, I must say they get a whole lot of airplay on rebroadcast.

On the other hand the pointless wrongs you people encourage, the self-absorbed misdeeds you recklessly commit, and the evils you so callously allow strike me as rather atrocious. Just. Fucking. Atrocious.”

Suddenly her serving man snorted. Or scoffed. It was difficult to say which but otherwise he remained unmoving and at attention. Steinthal carried on as if he had failed to notice.

“So please excuse me if I decline any further excuse to endure your company. I suddenly feel the need to take a hard, dirty shit. And probably a long shower.

Good night my dear. Good night ladies.

Let’s not do this again, real soon.”

Steinthal placed his untouched whiskey glass back upon the silver serving plate, tapped the phone in his trouser pockets, then turned and walked for the door.

Just before reaching it he turned again and bowed graciously.

“My apologies. That was rude and somewhat misleading. I’ve reconsidered. Let’s not do this again – ever.”

Then he left.

The Detective Steinthal

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

“It’s a question of precisely what is the most ethical possible practice,” Termkin said, apparently annoyed by Steinthal’s relentless and unswerving line of inquiry.

Steinthal stared at him intently, but unreadably.

“Is it?” asked Steinthal.

Termkin seemed puzzled by the question.

“What do you mean?” Termkin said.

“See,” said Steinthal twirling the brim of his hat in his hand, “that’s where I think we both know you’re wrong.”

Termkin furrowed his brow, his expression a mixture of ongoing annoyance and a genuine struggle to understand.

“I still don’t perceive your exact meaning?”

“No, I don’t think you do,” said Steinthal. “And I really didn’t expect that you could. But let me simplify the matter for you. You see I have this theory that everything is always really about morality. And that ethics is just something that lawyers and other no count types like you employ as a cheap legal substitute.”

Termkin seemed to follow Steinthal’s explanation at a slightly slower pace than it had been enunciated. But when he finally caught up he suddenly flushed red and showed his ire.

“Why you smart mouthed son of a bitch!”

Steinthal laughed good humoredly.

“Probably,” he said. “But I noticed you didn’t bother to refute me.”

Termkin mulled on that for a moment before his snappy comeback finally came to him.

“Oh yeah, well exactly how is one supposed to refute you smartass types?” Termkin demanded. “You think you’re always right.”

Steinthal stood up and put his hat on his head. He smiled to himself as if Termkin wasn’t even in the room though he was still staring right at him.

“See, that’s the part about this whole thing that’s easiest to resolve,” said Steinthal. “We are always right. Even when no one else knows it yet. Like you. As for the thinking part, well now, if you ever really bothered with that then I presume you could figure it out for yourself.”

Steinthal tipped his hat at Termkin in a peculiar gesture. “But I’m not gonna lay real money on it.”

Steinthal walked across the room, opened the door and then looked back at Termkin.

“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you Termkin. But, we met anyway. So at least we’ll always have that.”

The he left.

Still full of questions, but certain he finally crossed the right man.

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A bit of dialogue involving my Detective Character Steinthal. I didn’t really get a chance to do a Tuesday’s Tale this week. Too busy. So I’m posting this today instead.

My youngest daughter read it and I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “Dad, Steinthal talks pretty much just like you.”

Which made me laugh.

“Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?” I told her…

CROSSING OVER – HIGHMOOT

CROSS OVER WORK

Lately I have been doing a lot of what I call Cross-Over Work.

In this case I mean by saying that I have been doing a lot of work that cross-fertilizes itself in other works I am simultaneously creating. For instance I might be writing one novel and a particular scene or bit of dialogue I create will inspire another scene or piece of dialogue in another book or novel I am working on.

Though such things are not necessarily related to or limited to my various fiction writings. I might be drawing a map or making a sketch, designing something, working on a start-up project, developing an invention, writing a poem or song lyrics, or writing a novel or a non-fiction book and all of these things, or others, might give me an idea for another work I’m currently pursuing.

So today, and below (and in allusion to my previous post on actors), I am posting some of my latest Cross-Over Work. Little vignettes, or to be more accurate, often just little snippets (bits of dialogue, sections of scenes, sketch notes, etc.) of various Works I am creating and pursuing at this time.

Does your Work cross over in this way, from one work to another?

If so then feel free to comment below.

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NOT A FAIR FIGHT

“Again I don’t get it. Take one shot at your actual target and three at yourself… don’t seem like much of a fair fight to me.”

From my Western The Lettered Men

 

A CLUE

“Not every possibility is true, that’s certainly true, but every possibility is always a clue – to something other than itself. If you keep forgetting that then it’s very possible the Truth will entirely escape you. And if it does then what other possibilities really matter?”

From The Detective Steinthal

 

TRUE DARKNESS

“True darkness obscures. Few things can thrive in perpetual shade but those things that can definitely always wish to remain hidden. That is, until they are ready to be discovered. For reasons of their own.”

From The Detective Steinthal

 

ALWAYS BEST

“It is always best to hunt in silence.”

The Detective Steinthal

 

YOUR TRAINING IS OVER

“What are you training for kid? To train forever? Now who wants that kinda shit anyway? Only officers and politicians, that’s who. No, you get your ass in the fight. You’ve trained long enough. Time to be somebody.”

From Snyder’s Spiders

 

IT BLEEDS

“And how now is your wound?”

“It itches fiercely, it hurts mightily, it swells darkly, but it bleeds freely and cleanly. It is good that it bleeds so and thus I will not complain of the other things. But if you have any more of that strange brew you drink then I will not complain of a skin full of that either.”

“I have not a skin, but I can manage a cup.”

“Then so can I…”

Suegenius describing to Fhe Fhissegrim the condition of his wound

From my fantasy The Kithariune (The Basilegate)

 

A RARE AND WONDROUS FEAT

“If you cannot stand up to your own old man then you will never stand up to anyone. If you can stand up to your own old man then you can stand up to anyone else, and everyone else.

If your old man ever forces you to rebel against him then do not hate him for it, respect him for it. He has done more for you in that regard, as regards the development of your actual manhood, than any other thing anyone else could ever do for you in the world. That man who forces his son into rebellion has bred a man. You owe such a father an enormous and generous debt.

That father who always insists his son obey him, right or wrong, has bred a mere and helpless and fearful slave. You owe that father your utter disdain and yourself nothing but shame for your own endless submission.

Drink to your father Edomios. Drink long and deep. He has bred a man in you. A man who can stand upright and unafraid. A rare and wondrous feat in our age.

Maybe in any age.”

Marsippius Nicea the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate explaining to Edomios the Spanish Paladin why he owes his father a debt of manhood

From The Kithariune

 

THAT WAY YOU SPEAK

When Michael first lands in Thaumaturgis he is met by Harmonius Hippostatic
who makes fun of the way he speaks and tries to explain to Michael where he is, and what life is like in the Lands. Michael does not at first speak in verse, but speaks in prose, but as he stays longer and longer in the land of Thaumaturgis he also comes to speak in metered, rhyming verse.

Harmonius: That way you speak, it’s quite a feat
But it will never do,
No meter, rhyme or rhythm,
It’s really quite obtuse.

Michael: Where am I?

Harmonius: Why this is Thaumaturgis,
Don’t you know your lands?
It’s one of the three countries,
Not earth, not stone, not sand.
No one’s ever figured
How it got this way
Tomorrow is the same as now
It’s always been that way.
If want you life miraculous
Or supernatural,
It’s really quite so marvelous
And never, ever dull.
But one thing in this country
You really must avoid
Speaking words in plain old prose
Is what will most annoy,
So put on your best rhyming
Your metered rhythm too
Don’t dally up a worthwhile speech
Without so much ado,
Be mannered in your speaking
Poetic when you talk
Or everyone will soon declare
Your words taste just like chalk

From my children’s book, Three Lands

NOTHING EVER CHANGES – TUESDAY’S TALE

NOTHING EVER CHANGES

“Yeah,” he said. “So I’ve heard tell.”

Maugham sighed, then leaned over with a groan and put his head in his in hands for awhile. He rubbed the top of his head slowly as if to somehow comfort his own mind. But it didn’t seem to work.

When he lifted his head back up he looked at Steinthal.

“Do you think it will ever change?”

Steinthal looked at him and then shrugged wearily.

“I suppose that’s entirely up to the people involved. I only know one thing for sure… and even that’s not much…” and then he fell silent.

Maugham waited but when Steinthal said nothing else he just stood back up. It was obvious he was hurt though, so Stenithal moved over and put his arm under his friend’s and around his back and helped him start to walk again.

“What’s the one thing by the way?” Maugham asked as the men made their way torturously out of the ruined building.

“Oh that,” said Stenthal, as if he had just assumed his friend already knew. “Nothing ever changes much when no one ever much changes.”

So they made their way back to the river, dripping sweat, shedding blood, grunting in pain, and limping as they went.

from The Detective Steinthal

THE TROUBLE WITH YOU – TUESDAY’S TALE

“Personally I have never understood the idea that the herd is so all pervasive that you dare not leave it or the pack so all powerful that you dare not defy it. You don’t like the herd, then go your own way. Plenty of places the herd won’t dare go that you can. The pack turns on you then you turn on it. They’ll even be plenty of times you should turn on the pack when it doesn’t turn on you. That’s life.

See, it’s just a herd son, it’s just a pack. Simple as that.

This ain’t rocket science kid it’s just plain old fashioned manhood. And whenever necessary a man stands absolutely alone and entirely unafraid. But don’t pretend with me what I’m saying is so unbelievable you can’t even imagine it.

You’ve imagined it plenty. You’ve just never had the balls to act like a man about it.

So the trouble ain’t them boy, the trouble has never been them. The trouble is you. I know it, they know it, and you know it. Because the trouble will always be you until it ain’t anymore. And then the real trouble starts.

But at least by then you’ll finally be a man about it.”

From The Detective Steinthal

Steinthal talking to a low level informant and petty criminal. From one of the cases of my Detective Steinthal.

 

COME THE HORIZON – TUESDAY’S TALE

This is a little piece of flash fiction I wrote involving one of my detective characters, the chief one, Steinthal.

 

THE DETECTIVE STEINTHAL – COME THE HORIZON

“You know part of me really would like nothing better than to save everyone. But another part of me knows equally well that to habitually do so only makes people, especially some people, dependent, enslaved, useless, and weak.

It is entirely immoral and unacceptable to abandon the truly helpless and indigent. Yet it is also wholly wrong to save those who should be busy saving themselves.

So I won’t do either because both are evil and unwise. Even God understands that you cannot save those who refuse to change. That’s as true for individuals as it is for groups of men.

See, as much as I’d like to help you I’m just a detective, not a messiah. Therefore I can’t help your friend Sara. I can’t help anyone who won’t help themselves.

And all the evidence here points in just one direction. That boy doesn’t want help, he wants to be saved. From himself. There’s no real cure for that, and there never will be. I’ve got no trick to fix it. There is no such trick. Those are the actual facts I’m afraid, and I never argue with the actual facts. There’s just no future in it. For anyone.

If only he truly understood that. Or really cared. Because either one would probably do.

But he doesn’t and I can’t do those things for him. You know as well as I do he’d rather die before he tries either. I wish I could tell you different, my dear, but I’m far too used to the truth. It would just sound odd and unbelievable to the both of us. So I’m going to spare us both the pain and suffering of a futile effort.

He’s not here speaking to me because he doesn’t really give a damn. And you’re here speaking to me because you do.

As strange as that sounds let that be some consolation to you. Because the truth is he’s not worth you getting killed for, and there will be plenty of others to save. People who will let you help save them.

He’s not one of those people, and you shouldn’t be buried beside him because you’re too stubborn to admit that to yourself.

Live, my dear. That’s the very best help I can give to you. Because if you stay attached to him the way you are now, you won’t.”

I left it there because it was the truth and because it was as good a place as any to leave it.

She sat across from my desk staring at the floor for a long while. Then she raised her face to look at me and her eyes were watery and unfocused, as if she were looking through me and out at something on the horizon she didn’t expect to escape.

She stood up slowly, her breath uneven and shallow and short, like women breathe when they are both upset and resigned to their fate. Then she turned and walked for the door.

When she got to the door she turned the doorknob, pulled the door back slightly, paused, and wrestled with herself as to whether or not to look back at me.

Eventually, with a little shake of her head, she decided that she wouldn’t. Instead she opened the door just enough to slide out it and then pulled it quietly shut behind her.

And I knew she was as good as dead…

ACCIDENTS AND HAPPENSTANCE

“So, you think I lived this long purely by accident and happenstance, do ya?” Steinthal said, more statement than question.

He thought about that a moment.

“Well then, since you’re the Detective and have already figured it all out, enlighten me. How did you live this long?” he asked.

“I’ve lived this long because I give only one warning and take only one warning. I suppose this qualifies as your one warning,” Steinthal replied.

“Maybe,” he said looking up at Steinthal and smiling, “but just out of curiosity, what comes after your warning?” he asked.

“Who says I’m giving you a warning? I almost never give warnings. The next time you see me, trust me, you won’t.” And Steinthal didn’t smile.

The Detective Steinthal

 

 

NOT A CONCERN – BOOKENDS

“You know, you’re not the first to react this way. A great many people seem very frightened by the fact that I am not frightened. However I am not in the least frightened by the fact that they are frightened by that. As a matter of fact it greatly encourages me when I meet people like you.

You’d be really frightened if you knew just how much.

Steinthal (The Detective)

A LITTLE MURDER STORY

A Little Murder Story – I was working on this in my mind on my way home from town one night about 11:30 or so. It has some rough language in it, and if that offends you then skip it. (I’m not a big fan of rough language myself just to have rough language, unless it is a matter of realism, then it doesn’t bother me at all.) I couldn’t write it in the car and didn’t have my tape recorder, so I had to reconstruct it from memory. Might not be exactly what I saw in my head, but it’s pretty close.

A Murder Story is as close as a title as I’ve got, but I kinda like that, so I might just stick with it.

It isn’t the full story, as I plan to publish it. But this is my Tale for Tuesday’s Tale.

Enjoy.

_____________________________________________________

“Man, you say that shit to me again and I’ll kill your punk ass.”

I sighed. Deeply even.

“Sure kid, I have a bad case of the ‘you scared me already.’ How bout we just go back on point now?”

“I told you, I ain’t got shit to say to you.”

I pivoted. More outta habit than necessity.

“Alright then, let’s try this. I’m gonna wave my left hand in the air and you’re gonna try and track it with both eyes at once. If you can do that it’ll prove to us both that you’re smart enough to do that.”

It took him a second, but I waited through it.

“Mutha-“ he stepped towards me with his chest bowed out, hands by his side, so I raised my left hand and when he looked I hit him in the mouth with my right. He rocked back for a second, kinda stunned. So as he was still figuring the right I elbowed him across the nose with my left arm. He sat down on his knees looking up, his mouth open.

To keep it moving at a brisk pace I caught him by the shoulders, bent him back double, and slammed his head back into the chewed up pavement. Hard enough his skull bounced. Then just to be sure I grabbed him by the sides of the head and did it again.

While he flirted with a concussion I rolled him over onto his stomach and cuffed his left wrist (I had been watching him, he was definitely a southpaw) to his right ankle. He was kinda fat and big boned so it was a bit of a stretch for us both, but I had come prepared for all contingencies. Sure, they always looked funny that way but then again it usually did wonders for cooperation. This guy looked like he’d at least try and dance under duress, once he was moving again, but ya just never knew. Nine outta ten times this setup did the trick.

After that I rolled him onto his side and watched for signs of life. Sure enough he began to display a few. So I pulled out my knife to firm it up a little.

“Okey-dokey, here we go city bang-bang. Now you do believe in blood at first sight? Right? Cause I think this is the part where you tell me all about how you’re gonna saw my head off with my own knife, rape my mother, eat my dog, and commit all of the other higher level functions you’re so expert at. Boo-yah and brimstones! Or, on second thought, we can just skip that part, if it’s all the same to you, and you can go ahead and tell me who murdered the girl. I mean I’m sure you’re frightful and all but that’s my real interest. And I’m salaried, so sooner is better.”

“Man I din’t kill no little girl.” His lip was already swelling and the blood around his nose was already blackening. That would be useful in a minute or two.

I started to step over him and when I did he tried to use his right hand to catch my leg. So I stomped on his hand. Hard. He groaned, I smiled.

“I thought we had a working negotiation. But I guess we’re still gonna hav’ta work out a few mutual misunderstandings. I’ll go first if you don’t mind.”

I kicked him in the solar plexus and all his breath ran out in a huff. I think he also started to cry a little. Sometimes I had that effect on certain people.

“Isn’t this exciting? Now first of all, I said murder, not kill. And secondly I said girl, not little girl. So clearly we’re still having definitional difficulties. But we can work that out. Let’s start over, for old times’ sake.”

I bent down and took my knife and cut his cheap windbreaker off him. Then as he caught his breath I cut his sweatshirt off too.

“Wooo-weeee. That really looks cold. Old Man Winter sure does bite iffin you give him a reason, don’t he? But that’s okay, I just had coffee and a hot Danish. I’m good for an hour or two.”

He spat and cursed some. Wiggled on the icy ground. I waited politely for him to finish.

“Boy, that was an illuminating display. Thanks for that. I’m gonna write that down for later, but for now you just try and track with me for a moment, won’t ya? See, you seem to be under two unfortunate misimpressions about our situation here.

First, I don’t have a murder warrant out on me, nor have I ever done time for a previous murder conviction. Bet you’re wondering if it’s because I’ve never killed a man, or if, unlike you, I’m just good enough to have never gotten caught. Well, we’ll get around to that part later this evening, during the entertainment interlude.

And I guess the second problem is, although I’d think it might be kinda obvious by now, even to you, that I’m not exactly what you’d call a real cop. Maybe I’ve never been a real cop. If we have time tonight we might get around to that part too. Just for giggles.”

“Man, I’m telling ya I ain’t KILLED NO GIRL!” He practically roared the last part and for the first time in our whole brief relationship he said it sincerely enough that I knew he really wanted me to believe him.

“Isn’t that sweet? We’ve finally reached the stage where you care what I think. Or think I care what you say. See, we can make progress. All we gotta do is really work at it awhile. Eventually we’re even gonna get at the truth.

But before that I’m gonna take my knife and cut off your pants. And just before you’re shivering so hard you go numb all over I’m gonna cut your balls off. You’d be surprised at the amount of truth that causes to spill out of a man. So hold on tight now, we might hav’ta go around the block a couple of times before you finally figure out where we’re headed. But I promise ya, it’ll be well worth the effort when we finally get there. And if at any time you wanna take a shortcut then just let me know. Like I said, I’m salaried. So the quicker we get at the truth, the better for everybody. Especially you.”

Then I took my knife and went to work.

It didn’t take long. I’m pretty good at my work.

THE ENTITLED TRIBUTARY TALES

These two posts, The Tributary Tales, and Conan, Baba Yaga, and Tôl Karuţha will explain what I mean by the Tributary Tales.

Suffice it to say that over the holidays (in my spare time between Thanksgiving and Christmas)  I made basic, and sometimes quite complicated, plot and character sketches of the Tributary Tales I wish to write.

Below is the new and expanded list of the Tributary Tales I will write and the titles for each story. I’ll post plot and character sketches and the stories themselves as I write them. I’ve made good progress on Tôl Karuţha and on My Battered Heart already, with the second being a graphic novel script, not a short story. The Godzilla story, Rising Son, will actually be a film script not a short story. But most all of the others will be short stories or short novellas.

I will work on these stories and scripts in my spare time, they will not interfere with my business, novel, or non-fiction work.

So, here is my list of entitled Tributary Tales:

THE TRIBUTARY TALES

Tales of the Fictional (or partially fictional) and Mythical Characters that had the most influence on me growing up or that in later life most appealed to me

AeneasThe Flight from Knossos
BatmanMy Battered Heart
BeowulfThe Good King Comes But Once
Cole and HitchThe Ravine Near Ridgewater
ConanThe Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha
DaredevilBlack and Blood Red
Doc SavageSavage Is as Savage Does
GalahadGalahad and the Golden Stag
GodzillaRising Son: The Eternal Ocean is my Womb
HephaestusThe Forging of the Titan’s Chain
Horatio HornblowerThe Jib’s Complaint
Jack AubreyThe American Problem
John CarterThe City Never Seen
John GaltFree is a Four Letter Word
Kirk and Spock (Star Trek original series) – The Battleship Remission
Lone RangerThe Cold Wind at Sunrise

Lovecraftian  – The Secret Grave of Harrow Hill

Merlin The Bones of Old Stone
Nathaniel Bumppo (Hawkeye) and ChingachgookBlood Feather
OrpheusNo Music May Soothe, or perhaps, Tears of Iron
ParsifalThe Sorcerer’s Swan
Philip MarloweThe Crooked Dane
Robin the HoodThe Fletcher and the Fulmen
RolandThe Menhir and the Moor
Sherlock HolmesThe Case of the 12 Septembers
SiegfriedThe Rhine-Wine (of the Black Elf)
Solomon KaneWith Evil Intent
SpenserHigh Roll Her
Taliesin (Taliesin Ben Beirdd) – Sweetly Sang yet Rarely Ventured
TarzanThe Ruins of Khumbar and the Slave Girl
Túrin TarambarThe Piercing of Melkor’s Doom

A HELLUVAH WORLD

“Let me speak to him alone if you don’t mind.”

The other two left the room shutting the door behind them.

“What do you mean?” he asked me again.

“I mean exactly what I said. The world needs dangerous men and it needs them badly.”

“Why,” he asked, seeming genuinely confused. “I thought dangerous men were, well, dangerous…”

“Of course they are.” I said.

He seemed puzzled, still grasping at his thoughts.

“But I still don’t understand.”

“It’s obvious you don’t,” I replied. “And that’s the shame of it all. But let’s assume you’re open minded and willing to learn. Yeah, that seems like a good place to start, you make your assumptions about me, I’ll make my assumptions about you, and we’ll see where that takes us. So, are you open minded and willing to learn?”

“I guess so,” he replied.

“Well then, your guess is as good as mine, isn’t it?”

He didn’t reply, so I didn’t continue. After a while he was finally confused enough to try and prompt me.

“Sir, I’m still not getting this.”

“No, you’re not. And maybe that’s my fault as much as yours. But let’s play this from another angle son. What did you just call me?”

He struggled a moment, thinking back on his sentence. When he thought he had thought long enough he answered.

“Sir?”

“And why did you call me sir, son?” I asked.

“Well because you’re older than me, because that’s the convention… because I respect you?”

“That’s part of it I guess. Maybe.”

I stood up and walked over to him, bent down and stared directly into his face. At close range. Just a few inches away. I could smell his breath, he could smell mine. I could see the tiny round light flecks and my reflection in his eyes; he could see the bloodshot in mine. He held in with me as long as he could, then turned away, his eyes dropping reflexively. I stayed on him. Didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. Didn’t look away.

“Sir, you’re making me uncomfortable,” he finally stammered.

“Is that right?” I said standing back up. “And why do you suppose that is?” I asked leaning back on my desk right in front of him, my arms out beside me, relaxed, but useful.

“Because you’re too close, because I was sitting in the chair and couldn’t get away, because…”

“Uh-huh, couldn’t get away. I see. Couldn’t stand up and walk away, couldn’t keep looking at me any longer, couldn’t stand up and step towards me any. Well, assuming that’s all true about you, how about we explore one more possibility,” I said lifting my hand and twirling my right index finger horizontally like it was a wheel. “Keep going son you’re bound to hop on the right track sooner or later. Let’s see if you can read sign and deduce all at the same time.”

He seemed distracted, or maybe temporarily flummoxed. But I could see the gears shifting. He was coming to it, like it or not. He looked at his own hands, then looked at my still turning finger, then glanced around the room, shifted uneasily in his chair. The he said very quietly, “Because you make me nervous?”

I raised an eyebrow inquisitively and kept turning my finger, more slowly this time. Keep at it kid, I thought hard at him. You’re gonna get this sooner or later. Just one more leap.

“Because you’re dangerous,” he finally said, looking me in the eye again. I smiled broadly, turned and went back to my chair.

“And son,” I asked him, “What do you do when you meet a dangerous man?”

He paused to consider, but it was his gut that did all the over-under work.

“I…uh, uhm… usually, I… don’t really know,” he answered.

“Would you like me to tell you what you do when you meet a dangerous man?” I said.

“Uh… sure,” he said, sliding around in his chair again. “I mean, I guess.”

“You guess a lot don’t ya kid.” It wasn’t a question.

“Well, I mean, it’s just a little disconcerting, is all,” he replied.

“Of course,” I said. “I get that a lot.”

I let my words drift off into silence. Finally he asserted himself again, sort of.

“Well… are you going to tell me?”

I folded my hands together interlocking the fingers, obscured my mouth with my construct, and imitated the hesitancy in his voice.

“Well… son… uh, ermm, do you want me to tell you, uh, you know, or do you want to keep on guessing until you can give a straight answer?”

His eyes dropped again.

“I want you to tell me,” he replied, more flatly, more directly this time.

“Good. Gooood. Very good. These are just my initial observations of course, but here goes. When you meet a dangerous man you shift around in your seat. Like you do in your head. You start thinking to yourself, ‘will, or how exactly will this guy hurt me.’ You start having trouble thinking. You breathe shallow and uneven. Your heart beats off-key. You start making excuses to leave. You become unsettled, passive, accommodating, weak-kneed, calculating position for your own safety. You drink the drink you’re offered. You eat the food you’re offered. You smile nervously. You laugh tepidly, timidly, but still you laugh. You dissemble inside yourself, hope for external distractions. You begin looking around for either an escape route or someone else to protect you. You become confused with doubt, consumed with fear, paralyzed by uncertainty. That sound about right, son, just generally speaking? As a first stab at the subject?”

He didn’t reply. Not out loud anyway. What he was telling himself was anyone’s guess.

“I’ll take your lack of strenuous objection as an acknowledgement of my astute observational skills. Do you wanna know what I do when I meet a dangerous man?” I asked him.

Rather than speak he nodded his head almost imperceptibly in the affirmative.

“Well, see, I have sort of an altogether different reaction when I meet a dangerous man. I tend to sit or stand perfectly still, watching him carefully, to see what he’ll do, what his habits are. I observe exactly what makes him dangerous.

His hands, the way he moves, how he talks to others, his influence, his level of confidence or lack of it. I look at his mannerisms, his physical gestures, does he lean to one side too much, is he flatfooted, injured, does he favor one eye, not hear well, how quick or slow is he?

I start looking for weaknesses. I don’t think, ‘how can he hurt me,” no, I think to myself ‘will I need to hurt him,’ and if so, ‘how exactly will I do this?’ Where is he most vulnerable, how do I take him down with the least resistance, and the quickest, where do I ambush him, and when? Is this guy a public danger, a private one, both? What’s the best environment to limit him to?

I become fixed, active, braced, set, poised, aware, resilient, relaxed, and also calculating, but not for my own safety. No, I start calculating how he won’t be safe anymore. Because I’m there. I drink the drink I’m offered if I feel it’s safe to do so, I eat the food I’m offered if I feel it’s smart to do so. I smile a little and I laugh a little, but I don’t confuse doing either for friendliness or fear. It’s just a play for appearance, and a chance to note more.

I don’t need an escape route; I look for ways to get at him. To get closer. To advance. I know the closer I get the less dangerous he becomes. I don’t need someone to protect me, if necessary I’ll do the protecting for others, and if necessary I’ll be the one he needs protection from.”

He looked at the cup of coffee and the Danish he had been ponderously and abstractly consuming. I smiled again, broadly and genuinely.

“Don’t worry son. See, aside from what I just told you there’s one other thing you need to know about dangerous men.”

“What’s that?” he asked.

“Just this. There are two kinds of dangerous men in this world. There are the dangerous men who hunt men like you. And who stalk women and children, of course, and anyone else they can dominate, or that fears them. That’s the kind of dangerous man who makes a guy like you look for an escape route, or makes you look for someone to protect you.”

When I didn’t say anymore he was quiet a moment and then he asked what I knew he would ask.

“And what’s the second kind of dangerous man?”

“Me,” I said.

“You?” he said, but it wasn’t really a question.

“Me,” I repeated. “And that’s why the world needs more dangerous men, and needs them badly. Because for every one of me there’s ten of the other kind. So whereas not all dangerous men are equal, it sure wouldn’t hurt to even the odds up a bit until they are. Then we’ll see how things square at the corners. And if they don’t which corners are sharpest and cut the deepest. Or are hardest to whittle away.”

I stood up and walked around my desk and up to where he sat. I waited. When he rose to his feet I shook his hand vigorously and in a friendly fashion. As if I’d known him for years. I slapped him on the back, I smiled, I laughed. I led him to the door and opened it wide for him.

At the exit he turned and looked at me as hard as he knew how. I saw myself reflected in his eyes again. He opened his mouth to speak, seemed to think better of it, and didn’t. I nodded as if we were old buddies.

“If you ever need a safe escape route son – I’m certainly not it,” I told him. “But if you ever need a really dangerous man for a truly good cause, I’m available.” He nodded in reply, and I almost got the feeling he understood.

Then I shut the door, walked to my desk, and went back to work. There were still dangerous men to hunt, and miles and miles to go before I could sleep again.

Sometimes it’s a helluvah world, ain’t it?

Sometimes it’s just one helluvah world.

THE DICK AT WORK

I very much understand what she is saying about the discreet angle of the stories. Even a detective novel is really just a set of tightly fitting “discreet stories,” all of which may overlap and inter-relate, with the Dick in the center of the overlap, but still each “relationship” is a “discreet relationship.” That is to say that John may know Tom and Tom may know Betty, but John may not know Betty even though Betty’s relationship to the larger set of events is a big motivation for Tom’s theft from John. The detective, though, should eventually come to know them all.

It’s kinda like working a real case, and that’s how I approach writing Detective fiction. Like I was working a real case, only with me at the center of the case-board, rather than the perp, suspect, or UNSUB.

I get her points…

J.K. Rowling plans to write more about Cormoran Strike than Harry Potter

jk-rowling

Image Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

J.K. Rowling said that she plans to tell the story of Cormoran Strike, the war-veteran detective who stars in her books The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm, in more than seven novels, outnumbering her Harry Potter books.

http://shelf-life.ew.com/2014/07/21/j-k-rowling-plans-to-write-more-about-cormoran-strike-than-harry-potter/