who’s the lady with the log?

I’ve just watched the pilot episode of Twin Peaks (well, I guess re-watched, though the first time I watched it was over a quarter century ago and I don’t remember much about it — at least not as a separate entity from the series as a whole).

One thing in particular struck me, apart from the pacing: There’s a lot of crying.

For a series that had a reputation for being artsy and weird and “post-modern” (I just remembered that one of the cast members was on some TV show at the time, and she said something like, “We don’t know what post-modernism is, but we think it’s really interesting.”), there’s a lot of very emotional stuff going on. Not only did people (many people, including one of the deputies) cry over the death of Laura Palmer — they continued crying (from time to time) over several more episodes, at least.

This is something you don’t usually see in mysteries — at least not the ones I read and watch — where there’s some grief (if appropriate) and then it’s mostly on to the investigation. Many times writers follow the Murder, She Wrote scheme (it certainly wasn’t invented by the writers of Murder, She Wrote, but that’s where I became aware of it as a trope) where the victim is pretty rotten and generally disliked.

This does two things for you, particularly if you’re working with the time constraints of an hour-long TV show — or a half-hour radio show. One: it enables you to eliminate most of the grieving — giving you more time for the mystery-solving — and two: it automatically gives you a lot of suspects.

This is not something I’m going to be using in the story I’m writing now. The victims were strangers to the detective and most of the suspects. But it’s something to be thinking about for the future…

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the bus station mystery — part seven

This story started here.

Kelly and Stephanie stepped behind the dark ticket counter and Kelly squatted, waving her hand around in the various open compartments under the counter.

“I’m pretty sure there’s a flashlight under here somewhere… Ew!” She pulled out her hand and wiped it on her pants. “I do not want to know what that was…” She reached into the next compartment and pulled out a flashlight.

“Taa daa!” she announced as she turned it on. The light flared briefly, and then started to flicker and dim.

“Quick,” Stephanie said, peering into the next compartment. “Let’s find batteries!”

A couple of minutes later, there were fresh(er) batteries in the flashlight, and a couple more in Stephanie’s jacket pocket. Kelly pointed at a closed door. “That’s the way to the garage.” She made a face. “If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll find him asleep, or gone, but…”

Stephanie nodded. “This is not the time to make assumptions — that’s for sure. Is it just a big garage area, or are there rooms, or what?”

“A big garage — room for six buses, I think, though there won’t be that many right now. Fuel pumps, tool boxes… other stuff. I’ve never spent much time back there, to tell the truth.”

“Okay, let’s…” She smiled. “I’m getting as paranoid as the guy with the glasses, like somebody will shoot at us the minute we step in there. Let’s go.”

Kelly opened the door, and they went into the garage. It was colder than the rest of the building, since it was open to the elements. The rain was still coming down outside, and Stephanie was suddenly aware of how she’d got used to tuning out the sound when she was in the waiting room.

They looked around. It was spooky with no lights and only the flashlight to see by. There were three buses, one of which was apparently being worked on — the hood was open and there were tools all around, and the strong smell of gasoline and cigarettes.

“Harvey!” Kelly called.

A few minutes later, they were back in the waiting room.

Apparently, while Stephanie and Kelly had been out of the room, Mr. Randall had made another attempt to get everybody to move into the office, for safety, but this idea had fizzled out.

The birthday cake candles had proved to be a bit tricky, since there was no way to prop them up — until Billy had suggested they use donuts in place of cakes. That had worked well, so everybody sat in the dark waiting room, illuminated by a few small candles, stuck into donuts, on the small tables which were bolted to the floor in between the plastic chairs.

Harvey looked as though he was disgruntled at having been awakened when there were no buses for him to work on. He seemed determined to understand as little as possible about what was going on, and soon fell asleep again.

Stephanie said, “I’m hoping that you all have your ticket stubs. If anybody doesn’t, we’ll have to do a search.” She shrugged. “They would have to be somewhere in the bus, or here in the station — where else would they be?”

“What about the staff — the people who work here?” the older man said. “They–“

“The employees all corroborate each other’s identities. For the passengers, we don’t even know who everybody is.” He started to reply, but she kept going. “You said you wanted to see some investigation — well, this is often what it looks like. Slow, and methodical, and not cutting corners or making assumptions.”

He nodded and leaned back in his seat. “Fair enough.”

She smiled. “Why don’t I start with you. Do you have your ticket stub?”

He reached into his jacket pocket.

to be continued…

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what’s your hurry?

I’ve been thinking about Twin Peaks.

I gather it’s coming back to TV at some point, with David Lynch, and with a lot of the original cast.

I have no idea if this is a good idea, and I have no idea if I’ll see it. But it’s made me think back to the original run of the show.

It was one of those moments when something actually weird became a mass phenomenon, as if the number one movie on a summer weekend was an adaptation of a novel by William Burroughs.

I may go back and watch some of the episodes again (I really want to see the one directed by Diane Keaton — I remember it as the highlight of the second season, which had few highlights).

But the most immediate thing that came out of this for me — remembering the pace of the show, back when TV happened when it was damn well ready to happen, long before “binge-watching” was possible — was that I made a big note to myself about my current story:

“Don’t rush this. Remember Twin Peaks.”

(Which is not to imply that the episodes will be coming more slowly — if that’s even possible — but that there will almost certainly be more of them than I was planning on.)

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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." He looked around the room. "Is 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 he 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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