the bus station mystery — part six

This story started here.

Stephanie stood in the middle of the waiting room. “I asked Kelly to get the ticket stubs from the bus, but first I want to ask Mr. Randall some questions.” She turned to face him. “You’d never met Mrs. Nugent?”

He shook his head, still looking somewhat stunned. “No, none of us had. His co-workers, I mean.”

“And had you ever seen her — without knowing who she was? Around the station here, for example?”

He shook his head. “Not that I remember. A lot of people come through here every day.” He straightened his back a little and breathed in.

“As far as you know, you were the last person in your office?” she asked sharply.

“I don’t know–” he began, frowning, but then the big glass doors opened and Kelly came in, a thick envelope in her hand.

“Here they are,” she said. Stephanie took the envelope and peered inside.

Kelly stepped into the office and came back with a green company jacket.

Stephanie looked up from the tickets and regarded the jacket dubiously. “Are you offering me a job?”

Kelly laughed. “No; I’m offering you a jacket. You’re soaked to the skin.”

Stephanie smiled and pulled off her sweatshirt. “Thanks,” she said, putting on the jacket, which was large on her. “I–“

“Wait a minute,” said the woman with the large purse. “Hang on. I have two questions. One is that… Well, I appreciate that you’re Teen Sheriff or whatever, but why don’t we just wait for the cops to come and solve this officially?”

“The police can’t get here until the storm lets up,” Stephanie said, “and that’s probably going to be a while. Either the murderer is one of us, here in this room, or there’s a murderer in or around this building somewhere. Of course, it’s possible that the murderer has left the area by now, but…” She gestured at the front window and the storm outside.

“Travel conditions are not ideal,” the older man said, sipping his coffee.

“Wait a minute,” the younger man said, taking off his horn-rimmed glasses and looking around at the windows. “You mean somebody could be out there, with a gun, ready to shoot us?”

Stephanie shrugged. “That’s possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. We’ve all been here for a while, very visible in this well-lighted room, and nobody’s shot at any of us yet.”

Mr. Randall looked up. “I think we should move into the office, the big office.” He gestured at the ticket counter. “It will be safer–“

The older man stood up. “Okay, wait,” he said to Mr. Randall. “One of us may be a murderer, right? One of the people in this room, right? And there are three people here who knew the dead bus driver, and at least knew about his wife. The rest of us didn’t know anything about them, as far as we know. So, I’m thinking you, the Black girl, and the Chinese guy — you shouldn’t be deciding shit right now. The deputy girl here seems to know what she’s doing, which puts her a few steps ahead of everybody else. Now, I’d really like to see more investigating and less wasting time. That okay with everybody?”

Billy quickly discarded any idea of clarifying that he was half Japanese and not at all Chinese, and instead said firmly, “There is another person in this building, who isn’t in this room, and he knew Cody very well and may have known Cody’s wife, too.”

For a moment it was clear on the faces of Mr. Randall and Kelly that they had completely forgotten about Harvey, the mechanic, and then all the lights went out.

“Nobody move,” Stephanie said firmly. “This is probably just an electrical problem, because of the storm. Who has a cigarette lighter or a flashlight? Are there candles?”

The “rich girl” lit a lighter and held it out in front of her. “This will get pretty hot in a minute,” she said calmly. “Are there flashlights, or candles?”

Stephanie looked at Kelly, who said, “There is a flashlight or two in the office…”

Mr. Randall stood up. “I’ll get candles — Kelly, you should get the flashlights, and the batteries, and check on Harvey.”

Kelly frowned. “That makes sense, but I didn’t know we had candles.”

Mr. Randall smiled. “They’re small, but we have a whole box of them. For when we have birthday parties.”

to be continued…

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sometimes it’s okay to please the fans

I have not seen The Fate of the Furious (which is kind of a stupid name) — though I do want to — but I have caught a couple of spoilers online, and it pleases me immensely that the events of this movie apparently explain a scene in the previous movie which never made any sense to me.

Not in a “Hey, let’s fix that glitch” sort of way, but obviously in a “This is what we were planning to do all along” sort of way.

That pleases me, as it did in the final Resident Evil chapter. Pretty much no reviewers comment on these things, of course, but fans notice and care.

You get those little pleasures less often in big time superhero movies, where more chefs are usually stirring the pots (see Bryan Singer’s continuing efforts to rewrite history to remove X-Men: The Last Stand, which he didn’t write or direct).

But every Resident Evil film has been written by Paul W. S. Anderson, and the last five Fast & Furious movies (the ones where the franchise figured itself out) have all been written by Chris Morgan, so movie-to-movie continuity becomes a lot easier to control.

It doesn’t make the movies better, but it does make them more fun to watch the second and third time.

Coming soon: Part six of “The Bus Station Mystery.” Really.

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last night was interesting.

I reread my current story yesterday, and also listened to it (because that’s how I do), and then when I was ready for bed — lights out and all — I got an idea of a note I should make to myself.

Because if if it’s not written down… Well, you know.

Anyway, I turned on the light, found my glasses, wrote down my thought, and got ready for sleep again.

Then I had another thought.

Light on again, glasses on (easier to find this time), note made.

Glasses off, light off. Another idea. Lights on, glasses on, etc.

After that, it was sleep time.

Been a while since the old wheels have been turning like that, though.

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the return of lorde

There’s a very good piece on Lorde and her new album in this week’s Sunday New York Times Magazine:

Two things that particularly struck me.

One is personal — Lorde talks about how much she likes a New York diner called the Flame, where she ate many meals while staying in the city for most of a year to work on her second album.

I have a very positive association for that place, though I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten there myself.

A writer and an artist who I knew met there many times (decades ago) when they were collaborating on a comic book project. They found it to be — as Lorde did, much more recently — a very congenial place to work, and to observe people.

Funny coincidence, given how many diners there are in New York City.

(I was the ostensible editor of the comic book project in question, but when the artist and writer are your mother and your ex-wife, and they are in complete agreement about ignoring whatever editorial suggestions you might come up with, then you might as well not bother.)

The other thing that struck me particularly was how Lorde “sought an audience” with songwriter Max Martin (“probably the greatest pop craftsman alive,” according to the Times).

Martin said that “Green Light” was “incorrect songwriting” (there’s a key change in the “wrong” place, and one part is the “wrong” length).

Lorde thought about this, decided that the assessment was correct, and then didn’t change a thing.

Lorde: “I have a strong awareness of the rules — 60 percent of the time I follow them; 40 percent, I don’t.”

That seems to me to be the correct approach to the “rules,” in any form or genre.

You have to know the rules, you have to respect the rules (as she says elsewhere in the article, about pop music: “I have such reverence for the form. A lot of musicians think they can do pop, and the ones who don’t succeed are the ones who don’t have the reverence — who think it’s just a dumb version of other music. You need to be awe-struck.”), but you don’t always have to follow the rules.

I’ve included the official “Green Light” video before, so, for a change of pace, there’s this…

(I removed the video because apparently it was taken down for some reason. My favorite part of the song is when everything starts to come together around “But I hear sounds in my mind. Brand new sounds in my mind.” Because that’s what can help the most when things are really bad– the work. Stories to write, songs to sing, paintings to paint.)

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in which they has some opinions, and so do i

A friend sent me this link recently, knowing I’d probably have an opinion or two: “Stylebooks finally embrace the single ‘they’

Then, a few days later, I saw this (not exactly the same question, but related): “Billions performer challenges the Emmys’ actor/actress binary

People have been pushing for the “singular they” for a while — as an improvement over the old rule of using male pronouns for individuals of indeterminate gender. And it is an improvement, but my reaction is still: I prefer not to. I don’t use the male pronoun (though I’ve been writing for decades about a character who does 🙂 ) — I rewrite.

This is different, though, than the question of a person who doesn’t identify as “he” or “she” in the first place. I read an article once about someone who didn’t want any pronoun used — so every place where the person was referred to the name was used, rather than a pronoun.

This (the latter) is something more important than a grammatical question, though — I think this is a question of politeness. If a person prefers a particular pronoun — or a particular name, for that matter — that’s what you use. If it results in awkward sentences — and even if it doesn’t — you can insert an editorial note at the beginning explaining the decision.

“Style guides, like dictionaries, follow the language, not lead it, and they often accept usage years after it has become embraced by users, if not by language sticklers.”

Yes and no. Chicago draws a very clear distinction between dictionaries — which do indeed report how language is used, often not how it “should” be used — and style manuals. which go somewhat further (not “farther” 🙂 ).

The CMOS website, for example, has a whole section called “Good usage versus common usage.”

“And it’s now only a matter of time before the generic singular ‘they’ can come out into the light as well.”

I find this to be an unconvincing analogy. 🙂

That being said, the writer of this article is probably right — I think it’s probably inevitable. However, “careful writers” (to borrow Chicago’s phrase) may still resist, particularly in formal writing. The same way some of us old cranks still resist “contact” as a verb, and the use of “that” to refer to a person, and “presently” to mean “at present, and so on.

And Chicago is “holding the line,” at least for now. So that’s something.

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i’ve never had a bucket list

I’ve never had any desire to have a “bucket list,”, but this article caught my eye: “The 99-year-old who threw herself in prison – and other strange bucket list requests.”

But this is the part that really intrigued me:

Last month, a teenage girl from Ohio with terminal leukemia got her wish to shoot someone with a Taser. Alyssa Elkins fired the electrified barbs into the back of Sgt Doug Bline of the Newark police department. “I don’t like inflicting pain on people, I didn’t know it was going to be that painful,” she said as the officer collapsed in a contorted heap. She then shot her uncle before calling it a day.

Wait a minute. She got her wish to fire a Taser at somebody, found out that it was apparently more painful than she’d expected, and then, after discovering how painful it really was, she shot her uncle.

That makes me wonder…

And, on a completely different subject, there’s this:

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