the heron island mystery (part seventeen)

This story started here.

Sometimes you don’t realize how tense things are with a group of people until something suddenly breaks that tension, at least for a moment.

Everybody seemed to relax when Becky took over from Li, so much so that I had to wonder why. So far we’d learned that Kim had a lover who should have been off limits for her (and vice versa, of course), and that Li sometimes slept with Becky. This was pretty penny ante stuff, especially in the context of an investigation of two murders. Was there a big secret still to come — other than the solution to the murders (I would have had a rough time believing they all of the residents of Heron House already knew who had killed Manfred and Mary)?

Becky sipped her coffee and then, as she began to speak, my employer finally opened her case and took out a cigarette. As she reached for her lighter, Kim leaned forward and my employer held out the case so she could take a cigarette also.

“The first thing I remember,” Becky said, “I was lying on the floor, and my head hurt.”

Li winced. “I… sort of freaked out when I heard the scream, and I…”

“Booted me out of my own bed and onto the cold, hard floor,” Becky went on. “I didn’t hear the scream, but I did hear Kim calling for me a few minutes later.”

Li continued, looking rather sheepish. “I heard the thud as Becks hit the floor. I looked to see that she was okay, and I told her I was sorry, and then she… Anyway, I told her that I had heard a scream, and then we heard somebody yelling her name.”

Becky took over again. “It sounded like it was from outside, so we went to the window, but my room is in the front of the house, so we couldn’t see anything. We put on our robes and hurried out into the hall.”

“And they ran right into me,” Jo put in.

“Had you been awakened by the scream also?” Rhonda asked.

“No. I was awake — writing.”

It was not clear that Rhonda wanted to know what Jo had been writing, but she began to supply this information anyway, just in case.

“I’m a novelist,” she said, adjusting her glasses. “I’m writing a novel, and I find the best time to write is late at night, when everybody else is asleep and things are quiet. So, around midnight, I made myself a big mug of coffee–“

Rhonda held up a hand. “So, you were awake between midnight and the scream?”


“And your bedroom is in the back of the house, overlooking the deck?”

She nodded. “Next to Kim’s.”

“And did you hear anything before the scream?”

Jo shook her head, then she shrugged. “I was concentrating on what I was writing, but I wasn’t aware of hearing anything.”

“But you certainly would have heard any sort of fight on the deck, right below your window.”

“Oh, yes. It was very quiet.”

“Was the light on in your room?” Rhonda asked, and then she laughed. “Okay, that’s a dumb question.”

“My light was on.”

“So, obviously, anybody who was on the deck would have seen the light from your window and they would have known they had to be quiet.”

“I guess so.”

“What about cars? Would you have heard a car?”

“We always hear cars coming up the hill. When we hear one, sometimes we try to guess if it’s coming here or just going past us.”

My employer, in these sorts of situations, was never reluctant to draw attention to herself, if she thought it would be to her benefit. Sometimes she was quite theatrical about it, which she enjoyed (though she didn’t like to admit that).

But she was being very quiet now. She was smoking calmly, looking at whoever was speaking, reacting very little. I wondered if she had seen something and was waiting for the right moment to reveal it.

To be continued…

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it’s hard to resist a ghost dog

I’ve bought a few DVDs from the Criterion Collection over the years, so I get their email announcements when new films are available, but I seldom buy any (money, mostly, and for many movies a regular DVD is more than sufficient). But this one was irresistible

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Ghost Dog, which I wrote about here.

But it’s definitely top tier. Probably my favorite of Jim Jarmusch’s movies (well, it’s between that and Dead Man, I guess).

And, since I was buying something anyway, I just had to check for a few other movies at the Criterion site. No Gosford Park, no eXistenZ, oh, but they do have Moonrise Kingdom — I just have to get that (right?). I was so obsessed with Moonrise Kingdom at one point that I watched it every night for a week or so, and I wrote about it a lot.

I forced myself to stop at that point. Early Christmas presents — that’s what they’ll be.

As I say, Criterion editions aren’t for everything (and a lot of my favorite movies are never going to be Criterion fodder anyway). So far, I’ve got Nashville (of course), and several by Orson Welles. Criterion’s very thorough approach is particularly helpful with Welles, since there is often not a definitive final version of Welles’ films — let alone any sort of Director’s Cut.

So, I’ve got Criterion releases of Touch of Evil, Mr. Arkadin/Confidential Report, F for Fake, and Falstaff/Chimes at Midnight.

I’m still hoping for The Trial, too.

(Well, of course, what I’m really hoping for is that someday, somehow, the lost ending of The Magnificent Ambersons will come to light and be released, but that’s not going to happen. Of course, a lot of people said that The Other Side of the Wind would never come out, and then it did…)

Well, this started off being about Ghost Dog but then it quickly veered into Orson Welles, didn’t it?

I thought about Welles recently when I read about the movie Mank, here and here. It was interesting to read about, but I’m not going to (metaphorically speaking) rush out and see it. I may be a Welles enthusiast, but decoding the details of who wrote what in Kane (or any of Welles’ films) doesn’t intrigue me. The movies are there, and they’re all interesting and some are brilliant. Why see a movie about Kane when I can see Kane again?

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the heron island mystery (part sixteen)

This story started here.

Rhonda looked at the window for a moment, then she turned back to Kim. “While I think of it,” she said, “I didn’t get to talk to you yesterday, obviously. You weren’t here last night. Where were you when the murder — Manfred’s murder — happened?”

Kim looked surprised. “I wasn’t on the island. Beyond that, why does it matter?”

This was obviously what Rhonda had been hoping Kim would say. She straightened up and looked around the room.

“I need to make something clear to everybody,” she said. “Yesterday, there was a dead body on the beach. He was a local character — many people around here knew him. There was no evidence that he had come from this house on that night, or that he had visited you recently. So, when I was here yesterday, I was collecting information, but I thought it likely that nobody here was even involved in the death.”

Kim started to speak, but Rhonda kept going. “Tonight, your roommate died, on the deck of this house, your house, and you are all suspects, in both murders. I’m not taking no for an answer when I ask questions.” She glanced at the deputy. “What time is the road clear this morning?”

“Around seven, I believe.”

“If I don’t get straight answers here and now, to all of my questions, I’m going to make a call and — the minute the road is passable — cars will come and take all of us to police headquarters and we’ll continue the questioning there. For however long it takes.”

“I want to call my lawyer,” Li said.

“No.” Rhonda replied. She looked at Kim again. “So, where were you last night?”

Kim did not reply or move, or even, as far as I could tell, breathe. After a moment, my employer sighed and said, “Kim, you’re wasting everybody’s time. I can understand that you’re reluctant to admit that you’re in a sexual relationship with a professor, but there’s no way it won’t come out. Your best bet is to admit it now, tell us the details, and try to convince the sheriff that it had nothing to do with the murder of Manfred.”

Kim looked like she was about to throw up. My employer was stone faced — not at all triumphant about her deduction — and I thought she was well aware that she may have been brought along, at least primarily, as a sort of lie detector for the sheriff.

Rhonda looked around. “What about the rest of you?”

Li, the tall one (so far — until this moment at least — being tall was her only memorable characteristic), said, “Becks and I woke up when we heard the scream. We ran to the window–“

Then, realizing how that sounded, she turned bright red and froze in place. Becky looked as if she was struggling to suppress a laugh — so as not to further embarrass her friend — but finally she got herself under control and said calmly, “Li was really upset about Manfred’s death, and so she — as she sometimes does — slept in my room with me.”

Li looked mortified, and I could tell that Rhonda was controlling herself also.

Becky, the aspiring doctor, looked quite competent and not easily rattled, which was probably going to be good for her in her chosen profession.

She took over for Li.

To be continued…

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the heron island mystery (part fifteen)

This story started here.

Rhonda took out her pad and rested it on her thigh. “Let’s start with the basics,” she said, looking around. “Who found the body, and who called in the report?”

“I was asleep,” said the woman in the polka dot shorts. “I heard a noise. From outside.”

“Your name?”


“Kimberly Daniels?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

“What did you hear?”

She shrugged. “I was asleep. Something woke me up — I don’t know what it was. I listened for a moment, then I got out of bed and went to the window to look out.”

“Where is your bedroom?” my employer asked.

I didn’t look at Rhonda, and she didn’t say anything about my employer hijacking her investigation, at least temporarily. I filed this away with my earlier question about why we were there to begin with.

“Upstairs, in the back, overlooking the deck,” Kim replied. She gestured at the ceiling.

“The large bedroom?” my employer asked.

Kim nodded, but Rhonda leaned forward slightly and my employer turned her gaze the wooden beams of the ceiling, ceding the floor back to the sheriff. She took out her cigarette case, but she did not immediately open it.

Kim turned back to the sheriff and said, “I looked out, but I couldn’t see anything. I came downstairs and looked out from the window here. I thought I saw something, a shape, on the deck. I turned on the outside lights. There’s a switch there, by the window, and another in the kitchen.”

“And what did you see?” Rhonda asked.

Kim slumped a little. “Mary.”

“You knew it was her?”

“I saw her hair, and some of her face, and I know that T-shirt she always sleeps in.”

“What did you do next?”

“I ran out, onto the deck, I thought she… and then I saw the knife, and the blood. I yelled for Becky.”

“Did you touch the body?”

She shuddered and shook her head. Her posture had been pretty aggressive before, in contrast to her housemates who were all huddled up into their chairs, but now she seemed to fold in on herself.

To be continued…

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one less universe, but there are still a whole lot more

I’ve always enjoyed watching things (or listening to them) more than once, so it seems that I don’t want as much new entertainment as some people do. I remember in the early days of the pandemic (remember those days?) there were a lot of articles about people desperate for more things to stream and binge and so on. Of course, I don’t know if that was what regular people were really most concerned about (compared, for example, to the inexplicable need to acquire a lot of toilet paper).

I wasn’t really worried about that (either the lack of a supply of new streaming stuff or the toilet paper, actually), but I did note 1) the pandemic meant that comic book stores mostly closed and new comic books stopped coming out, which was too bad, and 2) as I said back then, the DC Universe app was probably going to go away (for business reasons not connected with the pandemic). So, no more Doom Patrol, or Swamp Thing, or Stargirl, or Harley Quinn (I tried to get into Titans, but no. No siree, sir. Not for me, sir.*).

So, now DC Universe, as predicted, is becoming a “platform” focused on comic books, and all the TV shows will be going to HBO MAX, which is a huge thing with content from Warner Brothers, HBO, and other movie studios and all sorts of other stuff. I’m not subscribing to that — that’s too much content and too much opportunity for wasting time.

For example, as I’ve said before, I’ve been dipping into Game of Thrones (backwards, though I’ve watched the first few episodes as well). If I subscribed to HBO MAX, I’d have instant access to all 73 episodes of the show. That’s too much all at once. One of the things I liked about the DC Universe shows was that you could not binge them — they came out one episode a week (as TV is supposed to do).

Well, DC Universe was fun while it lasted. The second season of Doom Patrol wasn’t that great anyway (as I said before, “Funny and tragic and bonkers in pretty much equal portions — that’s the correct recipe for the Doom Patrol.” — but the second season lost most of the funny). And the second season of Stargirl will be on the CW anyway.

And producing future episodes of any of the shows will depend on the pandemic (except for Harley Quinn — I assume you can produce cartoon shows with social distancing).

But losing DC Universe was one thing. I was more concerned about Big Finish, since audio drama is far more important to me than TV. Big Finish produces their audios far in advance, I know, but if they’re not making new ones, eventually the pipeline will be empty.

So, I was really glad to see that now they are recording their stories remotely. All the actors are in their homes, in homemade sound booths. For example, Louise Jameson (who plays Leela in the Dr. Who stories) was in a stairwell in her house, surrounded by mattresses.

TV and movies need so much more — big budgets and actors in close proximity and special effects and so on — but radio is still the realm of imagination, and listening to another adventure of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela is as much fun as ever.

Good actors and a good story and the audience’s imagination — that’s still the best.

• “No siree, sir. Not for me, sir.” was an expression used by the character Sade on Vic & Sade — my parents’ favorite radio show, from before television existed. Radio is a tradition in my family.

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the heron island mystery (part fourteen)

This story started here.

The living room of Heron House was noticeably warmer than the night air outside. There was no fire in the fireplace, but apparently the house had some sort of central heating. It was never this warm in the middle of the night where we lived.

I made a mental note to consider buying us a small space heater, if the inn’s wiring could support it.

Despite the warm air in Heron House, however, most of the residents looked cold. Elsa had on jeans and a sweatshirt, but the rest were apparently wearing whatever they had been sleeping in — T-shirts and sweatpants, plus bathrobes and sweaters and slippers — and they were all huddled into armchairs and sofas.

The day before, when it had been just Manfred who was dead, they had been able to tell themselves that he wasn’t really a friend, that the murderer might have been a stranger, that the location of the body could have been a coincidence, and so on. There were various walls they could put up between the murder and themselves.

But that was no longer possible. The victim tonight had been their housemate, and their friend (well, maybe), and the body had been found on the deck of their house, not on the public beach below.

Someone had apparently made coffee while they were waiting for us to arrive, and most of the women had mugs. Elsa had a soda, the bottle tucked between the arm of her wheelchair and her thigh. Nobody offered us anything.

The one woman I hadn’t met before had a mug next to her, full of coffee, but she was drinking a beer. She was wearing a pair of boxer shorts with big red polka dots and a T-shirt of the style sometimes called a “wife beater.” She did not appear to be cold. This was presumably Kim, who had reportedly been on the mainland with a lover the night before.

There was no place to sit in the living room, so I brought two chairs from the dining room for Rhonda and my employer. The deputy indicated that she was fine with standing, as was I.

If nothing else, I thought that standing up might make it easier for me to stay awake.

To be continued…

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