A SERIAL KILLER? LATE SUMMER MURDER MYSTERY by GARRY ARMSTRONG (PART 2)

THIS IS FICTION! NOT TRUE. A STORY. NOT A REAL EVENT.

Homage to MidSomer Murders from Garry Armstrong, the show’s current number one fan. And with a nod  and a wink to Sunset Boulevard and Philip Marlowe. On the occasion of our granddaughter’s 20th birthday, a lovely little murder.

Photographs (mostly) by Marilyn Armstrong,  except for the first one, which is Garry’s, aka “The Victim.”


Investigators now must rethink their original premise.

It’s no longer an isolated or random case of violence. Network news outlets are in the area. The FBI’s BAU (Behavior Analyst Unit) is on the case too. This is the team popularized by TV’s long-running “Criminal Minds” series.  No local or state turf wars here because the case is becoming sufficiently bizarre even for veteran crime investigators.

In a gruesome discovery, a second victim has been found!

Murder most foul!

Local, state and federal investigators are offering minimal information about the latest victim. CSU photos show he was white, middle-aged, and apparently healthy. There’s no word on how or when the victim was killed. A local resident confirmed the body was found in the same area, the same farm land where the first murder occurred over a week ago.

Some wonder if  this is a worse case scenario.

A SERIAL killer running amuck…. on the heels of the late summer birthday party murder!!

Victim Number Two

Victim Number Two

Shock waves continue to reverberate. It’s the ultimate loss of innocence for a small town where typically, the top news item is roadwork tying up traffic on main street. Burglaries or car break-ins are the high-priority items on the police blotter. No one worries about big city violence. Everyone knows everybody. It’s that kind of town.

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My granddaughter’s birthday party murder was the game changer!

State police are still sifting through the testimony of party guests. Records are being checked for previous criminal activity. Cold cases are being unwrapped, searching for clues or patterns.

The honored guest

The honored guest

Reviewing party guests, no one stands out as an obvious suspect. Everyone seems pleasant, amiable. Perhaps not overly friendly, but polite and civil. No blatant hostility was evident. No obvious suspects stand out from the crowd.


THE SUSPECTS

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Profilers are looking at the gathering, breaking them down into age groups and backgrounds. Motive is the big question. Everyone is so vague in their answers. This case calls for someone with expertise.

And, that would be me. The victim. This is my case, my story. I will tell it best because it revolves around me. It always did, in life and now, in death.

A retired, award-winning TV News reporter, I was checking out suspicious things before my demise that warm summer’s day. Now I know it was no coincidence, but at the time, I was bemused by the variety of possible weapons I found in the shed. All so readily available to anyone with a grudge and an opportunity to commit murder.

I’d covered so many murders in my forty plus years on the job, I knew something was amiss. Something was strange, wrong. Creepy. Unfortunately, I was right. Pity I didn’t realize the object was … me.

I didn’t say anything to anyone. It was pleasant party. I hoped we could avoid family squabbles and enjoy the festivities and go home with nothing more than mild indigestion to deal with. Everyone was focused on food. Hot dogs, burgers, salad, coke and beer. Good stuff. Classic American cuisine.

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I was on my third or fourth hot dog. Feeling pretty good. I discreetly eyed the other guests, trying to put those weapons I’d seen out of my mind. Conversation was light. Restrained. Most guests kept their distance. Something was amiss, but I couldn’t put my finger on precisely what.

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It fell on me to make some toasts, I suppose because of my professional background. I looked at the faces as I offered some light banter. No one seemed offended — but no one really laughed. I must’ve touched someone’s hot button — but who?

I turned around to get some water. I felt a whack on the back of my head. The world went blank.

The Victim!

The FIRST victim!

On the ground unable to move, I could still hear the people gathered around me. I hoped someone was calling for help, but it seemed everyone was taking pictures — of me — or selfies with my body as background.

I heard giggles and laughter. Then nothing. Nothing but The Big Sleep.


More to come! Suggestions anyone? We suspect there will be at least one more victim, probably more than one. Who’s the killer … and what’s the motive? 

 

QUESTING

So this is all about setting out on a quest. Except … not to put too fine a point on it … I’ll accept that life is a quest, but going for a hike — even as a group — is taking a hike. Unless it happens you have Sauron’s One Ring To Rule Them All in your duffel and you’re on you way to Mordor, then Mt. Doom. Where you and your duffel (and The Ring) are planning to leap into the volcano.

Otherwise, you’re out for a day of good, healthy exercise, not a quest. It might even constitute a journey. Still not a quest. I don’t know anyone who has quested. Long trips to foreign shores? Yes. Quest. Not really.

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Maybe my mother was on a quest. She was always looking for the absolutely best prices on some really fine Italian wool (she was a tailor) and while she was at it, tried to determine what was the best things to buy in which cities of which countries. Maybe, for her, it was a quest … but I think it was a series of great vacations with a lot of shopping. Call me crazy.

What happens when you come to the end of your quest? Because … every trip, journey, high, whatever you choose to call it will come to an end. You come to the top of the mountain, the end of the path. Even complete the final leg of your journey to enlightenment. It happens. I hope you’ve got plan B.

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The ship comes into the harbor and ties up at the pier. The passengers depart, taking their gear with them. The hikers come home, put their feet up and start posting pictures on Instagram.

QUEST | THE DAILY POST

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

THE CHANGING SEASONS: SEPTEMBER 2016

The Changing Seasons: September 2016


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I believe this is a juvenile black-crowned night heron. If someone has a more accurate identification, I’d love to hear from you!

I had been hoping that the trees would oblige me by changing color for me this weekend, but alas, they have not. There is some change. Bits and pieces here and there. It always happens first near water. Along the shore, near rivers. But mostly, nothing much is happening … at least as far as changing color goes.

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Still the air is quite chilly at night, though still pretty warm and muggy in the day. September had been such a crazy, busy month … so I hope I’ve captured its essence. A little bit, at least.

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What’s this «Changing Seasons» blogging challenge?

«The Changing Seasons 2016» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2016. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcomed. These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Hard to believe we are wrapping up the year and heading toward the cold months. I always have a lot of ambivalence as the summer ends. I love the autumn. If it were October all year long, I’d be a very happy human. Sadly, it’s the last glory and the warm time before … well … you know. White stuff. Ice. Slippery ground and hard navigation. The cabin fever months lie ahead.

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SHARING MY WORLD – AUTUMNAL EQUINOX EDITION

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Share Your World – 2016 Week 38


Are you a hugger or a non-hugger? 

I will always hug Teddy

I will always hug Teddy

I’m a selective hugger. I want to know someone before I start cuddling and hugging and touching. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe it’s just me.

What is your least favorite Candy?

Depends on whether you consider crystallized ginger as candy. Haven’t I answered this question before? Or am I just hung up on ginger?

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?

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From left to right: Ellin Curley, Tom Curley, Marilyn Armstrong, Garry Armstrong

Laughter. If it isn’t making me at the very least smile, I’m probably not having fun. Where and with whom may change, but the laughter is a constant.

List of Favorite Smells: What smells do you love? Whether it’s vanilla scented candles or the smell of coffee in the morning or the smell of a fresh spring rain…make a list of all the things you love for a little aromatherapy.

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Roses anywhere, but especially in the garden. Coffee in the morning. Cinnamon any time. Vanilla all the time. Lemon sometimes. Orange when I’m slicing them. Lavender in the bath.

REMEMBERING TINKER BELLE

Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of health care, toys, dog food? Grooming?

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Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, also called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France, but have become over the past 20 years, quite popular as pets, though they are definitely not a dog for just anyone. They are smart, funny (they will do almost anything to make you laugh), noisy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home from the airport (she had just flown up from her breeder’s home in North Carolina), she wasn’t like any other puppy I’d ever met. She was incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else. Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

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She was deeply sensitive. Probably born to be a therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, she knew who was sick. She knew where you hurt. She was the only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine. She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound and a hunter at that, born to track, point and if necessary, kill prey.

Tinker at 9 months

Tinker at 9 months

She was the smartest of our five dogs, the smartest dog of my life. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit. She knew. We called her Tinker the Thinker because she planned, she remembered. She held grudges. More on that. For all that, she was Omega (the bottom) in the pack, we thought it was mostly her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding and other criminal activities. Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

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When Griffin, our big male Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog!) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally … well … Tinker’s heart was broken.

She became depressed, would not play anymore with humans or other dogs. For the next 10 years, Tinker refused to so much as look at Griffin. Worse, she apparently blamed us, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began her Reign of Terror.

Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs on when she was three years old. She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than a chewer. She would steal your stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys (Kaity was very young), towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them. She would do more damage in under a minute than I thought possible. For Garry and I, it meant we couldn’t leave the room together unless we put everything away where Tink couldn’t get it. Tinker would strike quickly and she was lethal.

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Griffin the great

If we were going to bed for the night, every single movable item that was less than 6 feet off the ground had to be put away. If she couldn’t get to any small expensive electronic items, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs …. and for dessert, shoes were always yummy. For many years, I didn’t own any shoes without tooth marks.

We called such items “Tinkerized” and we had a grading system ranging from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.

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During one memorable intermission, Garry and I went to the kitchen to grab something to drink and she dismembered our remote controls. We were gone, by the clock, about a minute. The kitchen is adjacent to the sofa were we watch TV, so she managed to do this with us not 10 feet away. It cost me a couple of hundred dollars to replace them. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but never ate them), then ripped out the wiring and boards. She didn’t waste any time, either. If she had the leisure, she’d also tear out the keys and generally mangle the cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

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For 10 years, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

Yet we loved Tinker and for the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker came back to herself and played again. She ran around the yard, played tag, joined the chorus when the other dogs pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang. Hounds have such beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the most beautiful of all. When she sang, nature sang with her. I suppose this is a matter of taste, but for those of us who love hounds, you know what I mean.

Singing is a social function for canines. When a pack sings, it isn’t an alert. It’s a chorus. They are really truly singing together. Each dog has a part, joining in, then pausing and rejoining at the right moment. Tinker was a baritone, the deepest and loudest of the canine voices and Bonnie is a coloratura soprano, very musical, but light.

Almost exactly three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down and a slightly lessened appetite. One day, she collapsed. She was riddled with cancer. How in the world she had so effectively hidden her illness is mind-boggling. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a massive stroke and died. They were the same age and I don’t believe for a minute the timing of their passing was coincidence. Despite Griffin’s infidelity, the two PBGVs were a couple and would not live without each other.

The house was so quiet with the two hounds gone. We didn’t have to hide everything anymore, though it took us months to realize it was safe, that I could leave my laptop out at night and no dog would bother it. After the two hounds passed, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again. Now, they sing twice a day, early in the morning (get up Mom) and in the evening (pause that show, time for the chorus).

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What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a puppy. Who knows how much her medical care cost over? Who remembers? It’s part of the contract between dogs and us. They love us, we care for them.

Other damages? Thousands of dollars in electronic gear, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls — who knows what else.

But she paid us back, you see. Because when I was terribly ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How does it add up? How much was the love worth? What is the cost of a lifetime laughter and love?