the heron island mystery (part fifteen)

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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?”

“Kim.”

“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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the heron island mystery (part twelve)

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Rhonda drove toward the pier at her usual breakneck speed, with her high beams on. There were no other cars on the street and the windows of all the houses were dark. She wasn’t running her siren.

“What do you know?” I asked her.

“The phones are working again. Someone from the house called it in about a half hour ago.”

“Accident? Murder? Suicide?” my employer asked from the back seat.

“Knifed. Dead. That’s all I know.”

“Where?”

“On the deck, or at least that’s where the body was found.”

She drove onto the pier and pulled up next to a ramp where a deputy stood waiting. “Come on” Rhonda said and we followed her down the ramp to the floating platform where the boat was tied up. There were gaps between the rough planks where the water was visible.

A man stood at the controls (if that’s the right term — I don’t know anything about boats). I walked slowly down the ramp, with my employer behind me. She was walking carefully, holding onto the rope railing, but the uneven surface and the tilt and the motion from the water made it difficult for her to keep her footing.

Not that I was gliding along with sure-footed grace and elegance either.

On the platform, there was a wooden box with three steps, to get us up onto the deck of the boat. There was no railing to hold onto, and my employer looked at me, giving me silent permission to help her. I got up to the top step, and then I turned and held out my hand. She gripped it firmly and climbed one careful step at a time.

As she reached the top step, I moved backward onto the deck of the boat, and then I helped her over the gunwale (I had to look that word up) so she was beside me.

She gave my hand a quick squeeze before releasing it.

Rhonda and the deputy cast off the lines and we were off. The boat was compact, with a small cabin in the front, surrounded by windows, where the pilot was. There was a narrow door beside him which probably led to a tiny indoor sleeping area.

In the rear (aft? stern?) there was a high seat, facing the back of the boat, which looked like it was intended for serious fishing activities. It had a seat belt and shoulder straps.

The sea was a little choppy, and we were moving fast. A big light on the bow illuminated the water in front of us, but otherwise it was dark, and the wind would have made conversation difficult, so we didn’t bother.

My employer was sitting on a small bench, holding onto the boat with one hand and her cane with the other. Her hair whipped around her narrow face, and a couple of times she had to wipe salt spray from her glasses with her sleeve. Her expression was neutral.

If you wanted to travel by car (or jitney) from the town center to the college campus, and then from there to Heron Island, you had to go the long way around, by the highway, because there was an inlet between the two land masses which ran right up to the highway.

By the water, though, it was only a few minutes from the town pier to Heron Island.

During that brief trip, I was torn between two topics I could have been fretting about, knowing I probably wouldn’t have enough time to thoroughly worry about both of them.

Should I use my limited time to wonder why Rhonda had come to get us in the first place? Or should I wonder where we’d be landing, and would I be able to get my employer out of the boat and onto dry land with at least some of her dignity intact? (And would we have to tackle those stairs from the beach up to Heron House?)

I hadn’t made any real progress on either question when I heard the motors slow and we pulled up to a small pier. The land around it seemed deserted — I didn’t see any buildings or lights.

The pier stuck out into the water only about twelve or fifteen feet, just one series of unsteady-looking planks and a couple of big vertical pilings. There were no other boats.

We pulled up alongside the pier and the deputy tied us up.

Rhonda got up onto the little pier somewhat more awkwardly than the deputy had. We were bobbing up and down in the water, and I knew that my employer was not likely to make it to the little dock by herself without ending up in the sea.

The deputy was up on the beach already, talking on the radio, facing away from us, so I motioned for Rhonda to turn around. Then, when no eyes were on us, I scooped my employer up in my arms and got her safely onto the pier. She weighed next to nothing, so this was quick and easy.

Rhonda led us through the trees (she and the deputy had brought flashlights, fortunately) and onto a familiar-looking “road” that took us up a hill and around a bend to Heron House. All the lights in the house seemed to be on — they were the only lights I could see anywhere.

 
To be continued…

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