the heron island mystery (part sixteen)

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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 had 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)

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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 take 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 arm chairs 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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the heron island mystery (part thirteen)

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Elsa let us in. She looked rather shell shocked, understandably.

Rhonda greeted her by name, speaking more softly than usual, and told her we’d start by examining the body. The other women were in the living room, and they barely reacted as we walked through to the deck.

The deputy stayed behind in the living room as we went outside.

There were floodlights on the back of the house, illuminating the deck, so it was easy to see Mary’s body, crumpled up next to the table, with a knife sticking out of her back.

Rhonda kneeled to check the body for signs of life, but it was obvious that she didn’t expect to find any.

My employer looked at the body, too, but I had the impression that she was more interested in talking to the women in the living room, particularly since she’d been excluded from Rhonda’s earlier conversations with them.

I barely looked at the body. I was fairly inured to corpses by this point, but my attention was more drawn to the woods on either side of the deck. The trees closest to the house were brightly illuminated by the floodlights, but everything beyond that was in deep shadow, and I couldn’t help but be aware that we were completely visible to anybody who might be in those woods, watching us.

Of course, there was no reason to think that anybody was hiding in those dark woods, in the middle of the night, and the two murders had been committed with knives, not rifles, but part of my job was to assess those sorts of possible threats.

And I did remember that, during an earlier case in Claremont, in a well-lighted living room, Rhonda had been shot by a rifle from the darkness across the street. And another woman had been killed then, and that bullet had been intended for my employer.

So, even in quiet, pleasant Claremont — college and resort town — things could happen.

Rhonda stood up. “As Dr. Wright would say, this dead body is dead. I’m sorry.”

My employer inclined her head slightly, as if she was aware that this was a socially appropriate response to what Rhonda had just said, but her thoughts were clearly elsewhere.

“Shall we go in?” she asked after a moment, trying to appear casual.

Rhonda turned to go inside, and my employer made a face at me behind her back, but it wasn’t until later that I figured out what was bothering her.

To be continued…

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Diana Rigg (1938–2020)

I’ve read several obituaries of Diana Rigg over the last few days. Most of the comments have talked about Emma Peel and The Avengers. I was a huge fan of the show when it was on, all those years ago, but she continued to do excellent work in movies, on television, and on the stage for the rest of her long life.

The New York Times obituary showed this picture of Ms. Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones.

As I’ve reported here before, I’ve been catching up (backwards, slowly) on Game of Thrones, and Ms. Rigg was wonderful in that show.

The picture is from a GoT scene which I have watched many times, and it shows a very specific moment in that scene. Lady Olenna has an empty wine glass in front of her, along with a very small bottle and a very small stopper. That says that she has just drunk poison — knowingly and, under the circumstances, willingly — but she’s not going to go quietly.

(Featuring Dame Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Ser Jamie Lannister. Background: All those guys marching at the beginning of the clip are the Lannister army. They have just conquered Highgarden, the seat of the Tyrell family, on behalf of Queen Cersei Lannister, who is Jaime’s sister and lover.)

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