Showing posts with label Leigh Lundin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leigh Lundin. Show all posts

03 December 2018

Bullies II — Town Without Pity, part 2


by Leigh Lundin

Yesterday, we brought you part 1 of a devastating story. That horrible situation is about to grow considerably worse.

girl crying
Part 2, Therapist, anagram of ‘The Rapist’

The court ordered psychiatric evaluation and therapy sessions. There, Honey Barrette encountered horrendous professional misfeasance.

Realizing the girl’s worst fears, the shrink didn’t bother to mask disapproval and dislike. The fault, she said, was Honey’s. Attention-seeking, she said, manipulative, narcissistic, unconcerned about others. False rape accusations are a nasty problem. Honey, she said, would be lucky to avoid jail time or even prison, which the prosecutor wanted.

Then the court-appointed psychoanalyst twisted the knife in a way the original perpetrator couldn’t approach. She ordered the child to apologize in writing to her so-called victim, the rapist. She instructed the girl to write letters of apology to the police and hospital for wasting their time, to the newspaper for headline grabbing. The therapist had perfected the art of bullying.

Protestations from the Barrette family fell on deaf ears. They pointed out the perpetrator was of age and Honey was only fourteen. At the least, statutory rape had taken place.

No, said the psychiatrist. No, said the police. No, said the prosecutor. The poor man had suffered enough.

Making the most of public shaming, newspapers printed the apology. One paper used the case to highlight attention-grabbing teens. The state’s premier, syndicated newspaper wrote a piece about false rape. It featured the psychiatrist’s assessment of the Honey Barrette case. It’s unclear if the shrink went on to publish it in an academic article.

School descended into a deeper nightmare than before. A delighted, self-righteous Alexis and her gang ruthlessly tortured Honey. The rapist’s best friend Colt organized insidious torments. Students stuffed Honey’s locker full of newspaper clippings. They elbowed, kneed, tripped, slapped, punched, and fucked over their classmate without mercy. Teachers failed to halt the unending hammering assault upon a 14-year-old child.

A numb, despondent Honey felt her life had ended before it’d begun. Dropping out of school made problems worse. She became pregnant by an abusive guy who resolved the pregnancy problem by slamming a 2x4 into her stomach, causing a miscarriage. Honey was falling faster than anyone could stop.

She prized one asset, her family. Parents and grandparents gathered around her. The packed up their precious girl and moved across the country.

It took their damaged daughter years, but she found her way back on track, a testament to her inner strength when it’s amazing she survived at all. She turned a sense of humor dry as the desert sands into a survival skill. She obtained her GED and undertook nursing studies.

Honey Today

She sticks close to family and a couple of close friends. Betrayal and horrible treatment at the hands of others has compromised her ability to find a decent man and forge a loving relationship, but she’s working on it. She’ll do it.

Recently she’s been awarded a well-earned promotion. Hard work and responsibility moved her up the ladder professionally. She started at ground level and worked her way up to management, now number three in line from the top. Any company would be lucky to employ her.

Living well is the best revenge, and Honey Barrette makes every effort to make that happen.

Afterword

The actions of the psychiatrist horrified me, a medical professional convinced of one’s own infallibility. Because of her evaluation, authorities forewent a slam-dunk case of statutory rape. Even if the judgmental shrink didn’t believe the girl, she should have considered the tiniest possibility rape could have happened, given the child the minutest benefit of the doubt, and not forced her to write those letters.

After Honey related her story, I spoke with her mother who filled in a couple of details.

Long after the court-ordered psychiatric sessions, the Barrette parents sat down with the court’s appointee to discuss issues. Too late to retract her words and reverse the fates, the psychiatrist revealed she’d misinterpreted the girl’s hostility toward her. She’d belatedly come to believe Honey and further concluded her rapist should have been prosecuted.

The shrink would have done well to remember the words of Omar Khayyám:
The Moving Finger writes and having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.
Honey at least, is beating the odds.



NB: Except for a single reference to the rapist, I've avoided the word ‘victim’. Honey didn’t use the term and I followed suit.

02 December 2018

Bullies II — Town Without Pity, part 1


by Leigh Lundin

As I was writing Bullies Part I, my dear, dear friend told me her story. I feel humbled she shared it with me and has given me permission to share it with you. Like the original Bullies article, the names have been changed as a condition of publication.

girl crying
Part 1, A Town Without Pity

In middle school it started verbally, the wrong shoes, a lack of designer labels, boobs that were taking their sweet time to present. Honey Barrette was only fourteen, a waif, a wisp, small for Bad River Junior High.

Classmate Alexis, oversized in attitude and altitude, had been held back a grade, then held back again. She wasn’t stupid. She’d mastered a cruel vocabulary of peculiar biology beyond the ken of 7th and 8th graders, phrases to gobsmack an adult.

Honey did her best to avoid her in the eddies of students swirling through the halls, but Alexis glided the currents like a shark. A head taller than her classmates, she sought prey unerringly, She found little Honey Barrette easy pickings and confronted her.

“What you staring at, slut?”

“Uh, nothing. You lunged into me.”

“Retard, you grabbed my jacket, bitch.”

“I-I didn’t.”

“You calling me a liar?”

“N-no. I was calling you mistaken.”

Alexis stabbed the girl’s chest with a hard finger.

“You’re the mistake. Christ, I had more tits when I was two. What’s with this sweater? Is this a fashion statement from your granny?”

“You two, break it up.” The hall monitor approached. “Alexis, get to class. You, whats-your-name, move it. Don’t cause trouble with Alexis.”

The bully honed her hunting instinct to a science, cutting victims out of the herd like a rodeo cowboy, especially Honey. She upped the ante in violence, secretive judo chops, rabbit punches to Honey’s kidney, slams and slaps to the back of the head.

“What’s the matter, little twat? You gonna cry? Want your mommy? Jesus, I can’t stand touching… what do you call them? Clothes? You never heard of Tommy Hilfiger? You steal them from Goodwill?”

The biggest girl in the class escalated to hair grabbing and tripping, hard shoves, hard punches, hard nipple yanks. One morning Honey couldn’t take it. She lashed back, throwing the bigger girl into the lockers. Naturally the hall monitor spotted them.

“You two, stop. Whats-your-name, you’re on report. Alexis, you’re suspended for the day.”

“Great. I can catch up on General Hospital, which is where this little bitch is headed.”

Seeking protection, Honey began to hang out with older kids from Bad River High School. They acted more mature and less mean. One hanger-on was no longer a student. Dick was a bit older. High school students looked up to him, a cool guy. Dick grew interested in the group’s youngest, Honey.

Later the Barrette family determined Dick must have stalked her, learned Honey’s schedule and route home from school, and found a lair to stage an assault.

The rape wasn’t spur-of-the-moment, it wasn’t accidental. It came as a blatant, broad-daylight attack in the middle of town. One afternoon Dick walked with her, then lured her into a copse beside the courthouse.

When Honey realized his full intentions, she fought back, but his height, weight, and strength dwarfed hers. Afterwards, he threatened to kill her and her family should she tell. With that, he abandoned her.

Honey gathered her wits and her clothes. She stumbled toward home, crying.

En route, a woman sat on her veranda, rocking, looking out upon the world. She noticed a slight girl hopelessly sobbing.

“My dear, what’s wrong? Come, come here so I can see you.” She drew the young one to the porch. “Dear, why are you crying so hard?”

Honey didn’t want to talk, she merely wanted home with her family. When the woman pressed her, Honey improvised the first of a series of devastating, spur-of-the-moment lies.

“Nothing’s wrong. I’m late, missing my curfew. That’s all.”

“My child, yours aren’t tears of a girl missing curfew. Your shoulders are shaking like… What’s that on your back? Is that blood? How did that happen? Oh my, oh my. I’m calling an ambulance.”

As they waited for paramedics, the woman, no mean amateur detective, drew the essentials from the girl’s trembling lips. Honey admitted she’d been raped, but refused to name her attacker.

By big city standards, Major Hospital was minor, but for three quarters of a century, it had served rural residents in three counties. They were expanding their facility and the small physician group, but the Women’s Health Center wouldn’t be completed for another two years. Whether the staff was trained in rape analysis isn’t clear, but they couldn’t state with certainty Honey had been sexually assaulted. They treated scratches and bruises separately before releasing her to reluctantly talk to police.

With Dick’s threats ringing in her ears, the last thing she wanted was to speak with authorities. She simply wanted to go home where it was safe, where she could curl up with a blanket over her head.

Not wanting to get anyone in trouble, she made up a pretend name for the rapist. The police ran with it, unsurprisingly not finding a perpetrator. Eventually, they figured out the real rapist and questioned him.

Naturally, Dick denied assaulting her. He opted for the consensual sex fiction, claiming she was all in and all over him. Afterwards, he implied, she suffered buyer’s remorse.

Life was about to grow far worse. She’d been raped by an amateur; now she was about to be gutted by a professional.

Tomorrow: The rapist, anagram of Therapist

30 November 2018

The Kindness of Strangers
A Thanksgiving Thanksgiving


by Leigh Lundin

The Oyster Pub, Dalton, Florida, and Georgia American Legion Riders. Remember that.

Meanwhile…

The near ox died at noon. After prayers, we buried our little Bessie beside the loyal beast, then continued south at wagon train speed.

Georgie Boy Cruise XL
Bertha
So it seemed. I was volunteered to drive a 40-foot, 33,000-pound machine a thousand miles from Indianapolis to Orlando. (12m, 15,000kg, and 1600km, respectively) I’ve driven that distance straight through, but not a 16½-ton covered wagon the size of a Greyhound bus: Freightliner chassis, Caterpillar diesel engine, Allison transmission, a flippin’ huge RV.

I haven’t driven anything that size since young and foolish teen years driving large, dual-axle trucks semi-legally (notice author’s clever avoidance of the word ‘illegally’) for a legislator who interpreted his state’s labor and highway laws loosely.

With three drivers and only two vehicles, the trip should have been a snap, right? Except…

It’s like that puzzle of the weird guy at a river who wants to ferry a chicken, a fox, and a sack of grain in a rowboat that can accommodate only one thing at a time (setting aside the obvious question of why he’s carrying around a fox drooling over his pet chicken). See, one of the drivers couldn’t drive the big motorhome. One person couldn’t drive at night. Another party (me) wasn’t permitted to drive the car. I was told that’s because of my out-of-state license, but I suspect it had more to do with a previous encounter with an elk. Furthermore, parties with XX chromosomes suffered motion sickness. Coincidentally, said motor coach suffered XX passengers’ deep fingernail gouges in armrests when XY chromosome driver gleefully hurtled down twisting Tennessee mountain roads. Ahem.

After fighting high winds and icy roads either side of Louisville, we holed up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee to gather strength. From the rolling, twisting, pitching hills, two drivers took sick… consumption or maybe cholera. Another driver (me) was running critically short of sleep.

We opted for a motel rather than further strain the RV’s sensitive plumbing. The motel, which shall remain anonymous, featured two unique amenities.

First, the immaculately tiled bathroom stank like a water buffalo died. We came to suspect the stench was piped in through the ventilation system from room 127, a room where Bobby MacAllister caught his wife in bed with his best friend Buddy Hatfield, in flagrante delicto you might say. He shot them both, hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ placard on the door, and paid for the room for the next six months. I’m pretty sure I’m correct.

Second were the fine acoustics that allowed us to hear every nuance of neighbors on either side. Room 125 thoughtfully tuned in the shopping channel for the entire night. I’m not sure how mental exhaustion played into it, but I’m now the proud owner of genuine 45kt zirconia earrings, a set of exquisite, hand-painted vice president portrait collector’s plates, and a complete set of Rachel Ray engraved Chinese-quality knives– and I’m not even sure who Rachel Ray is.

The other neighbor (for those who suspect I’m susceptible to hyperbole, I swear this is absolutely true) had a bangin’ good time… again and again… loudly… at length (pardon the pun).

Session № 1 commenced at 02:54 –that’s AM in the bleedin’ early morning– and ended at 03:11. For the really good at math, that’s more than a quarter of an hour of energetic bunny rabbit bumping. After a mere ten minutes, my lower back muscles began to ache in sympathy. Guys know what I’m talking about.

After fifteen continuous minutes, one of the women suggested loudspeaker lady was alone and “really spanking it,” whatever that meant.

I didn’t think so. Maybe I’m wrong, but symphonic percussion included slapping headboard and xylophonic bedsprings allegro, accompanied by feminine coloratura ‘ooo’s, gasps, and grace-note shrieks. Duet or solo? May the reader decide.

Eventually the participant(s) wore out and went silent. We settled in, trying to sleep to a sales pitch for the Rachel Ray Chinese macramé kit, which if ordered now, included a matching tea cosy and serviette ties.

Session № 2 commenced at 7:14. I swear that time’s accurate because I’d blankly stared at the clock for hours. This session waxed as enthusiastically as the previous bumps in the night.

I’m ashamed of the womenfolk, I really am. Granted, once again they were abruptly awakened, but what good are all those romance novels if one nips flowering love in the bud? I’m talking their loud clearing of throats and not-so-discreet coughs while I’m hushing them, “Shhh! Shhh!”

I’ve studiously ducked that no-win discussion whether men are more logical than the opposite sex, but when admittedly half-asleep women in a motel call out, “Get a room!” I retreat back to my cave to avoid debate.

After delicious Waffle House carbohydrates served by country’s most patient waitresses, the wagon train again hit the road. What is it those FedEx tandem trucks have against me? Barely three minutes into the journey, one of FedEx’s semis towing twin trailers passed me… almost… before it pulled back to the right lane… with me still there. Apparently the driver forget he was hauling two wagons.

FedEx predator
Interstate 75’s “Christine”
Swift, heroic action on my part saved the day. Heroic here means gut-wrenching terror.

This marked the second time I was attacked by a FedEx tandem rig. The day before, a speeding driver in heavy winds nearly sideswiped me and others as the semi serpentined down a mountainside from median to right shoulder and back again. At the bottom of the slope, the road straightened and the driver regained control, whereupon he headed to the nearest Pilot truck stop to wash his jeans.

On the way and at loose ends, we’d discussed where to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner. The tally had run against me 2-to-1. My companions opted for Cracker Barrel. I don’t have anything against crackers or barrels, but I have this prejudice about the evil lovechild of a rooster and a cow called chicken-fried steak. I mean, how bad does a meat slab have to be to rekill it with a hammer, bread it and deep fry it? Maybe it’s just me. With visions of steak-fried turkey dancing in my head, we pulled off I-75 at Exit 333, Dalton, Georgia.

I’m not saying West Walnut Avenue isn’t made for motor homes, but skateboards would feel more comfortable among its dips, hollows, and tight turns. In fact, a number of RVs could be found there, caught, I believe, in a sort of giant Venus flytrap.

I inadvertently (or perhaps Freudianly) passed the street to the Cracker Barrel. With a charming brick median and short, narrow streets, I had to figure out how to turn around.

My co-pilot suggested reversing in the Steak ’n’ Shake parking lot perched atop a hill. I looked aghast at it. This flatlander’s not saying it was steep, but goats rappelled up the slope with T-bars. Best I could make out, my navigator meant the tilting 14-foot tall (4.25m) vehicle should tiptoe low-gear up a dangerous, curving slope and suicidally leap off the cliff into the correct lane. That’s my theory.

I chose to squeeze through a bank parking lot where my graceful U-turn back onto Walnut resembled… well, picture a twelve-foot high, fifteen ton, unbalanced washing machine determined to shake its way out of a laundromat.

Further misadventures ensued until we found the backside of Cracker Barrel and parked in a mall lot. Here, my friends, our story took a charmingly unexpected turn.

The Kindness of Strangers

I love people who don’t ‘act’ polite and caring but *are* polite and caring. I want to be a Southerner, I really do. Except for cracklins. My grandmother cooked grits and cracklins. I love Southern food but I could not abide hominy or pork rinds, a sad defect in my genetic makeup.

Two gentlemen of Dalton who’d parked nearby noticed my forlorn look as I foot-dragged toward the Cracker Barrel. John and Steve were headed toward a tavern called The Oyster where, they explained, we could eat homemade Thanksgiving dinner without charge. Gratis. Free.

American Legion riders
I didn’t understand how that was possible, but we took them up on it. Thanksgiving in The Oyster turned out the highlight of the trip.

Thanksgiving dinner was sponsored by a local consortium underpinned by local American Legion Riders, as explained by John Brown, Assistant State Director of the Department of Georgia. They made a tradition of inviting folks who couldn’t be home for the holidays.

Loved it! We enjoyed ourselves and the food… oh, that Georgia cooking. The turkey breast, moist and tender, ranked right up there with the best. Great corn. Homemade mashed potatoes, another weakness. People enjoying themselves.

Thank you, Dalton, Georgia. Thank you for the kindness of strangers.

18 November 2018

Bullies I — Blood on the Hands


by Leigh Lundin

trenchcoat mafia
Long ago, Criminal Brief and more recently SleuthSayers discussed bullies and the havoc their trail of tears wreak. I was weighing national stories that made the news, when I stumbled upon terrible, untold instances of bullying of people close to me, stories that never made the light of day.

Virtually all states now carry explicit laws that can be construed as anti-bullying. Most also require school policies of one sort or another. A majority of states outright outlaw cyberbullying and more than a dozen states criminalize other aspects of child bullying.

Denial of the problem has become harder to defend as are the ‘right of passage’ claims, Darwinist ‘It toughens you if it doesn’t kill you’ theory, and the related aphorism, ‘We survived, what’s wrong with you?’ A pocket of Central Northwest States– Montana and the Dakotas, have lagged behind the rest of the country, but the notion it’s strictly a political issue is fading in the realization that bullying policies and legislation can save lives.

Up Close and Personal

Nearly as bad as bullying is the imputation targets are cowards. Taller, older, more massive tormentors typically travel in packs. The unspoken irony of intimidation reduces to one question:
How cowardly is a gang of bigger, thicker, towering bullies compared to a victim a fraction of their size?
Today I bring you a unique sketch of an abused kid about to blaze headlines in all the wrong ways.

One Less School Shooter
trenchcoat mafia
Focus… focus…

Hoss.

Ogre.

No bombs, no Columbine.

Marty’s not furious with the whole school, just the tormentors, big bastards they. The boy folds an air rifle under his trenchcoat followed by a machete.

The knot in his gut, not anger, not rage, but agony and despair, accretions packed and rolled like an iceball. Layer by layer, it’s basted like a poisonous black pearl. Like rings in a tree trunk– that one the kick that dropped him to his knees, here the slug that blackened his left eye, there the kidney punch that left him gasping on the restroom floor.

Him or them, he feels no choice, survival, he can take no more.

Book bag, glasses, look normal. Nothing to see here folks, move along. No parents on deck, no one sees him leave the house, no folks kiss him good morning and goodbye. No mother, no father spots the bulges under his duster. Win or lose, on his own, it comes down to him.

School hall. The boy nods to his two friends in the world, Chip, Dale, never mind the jokes. At the lockers, they try to converse, small talk, trash talk– girls, cars, sports, rat prick jocks, Old Lady Tucker’s Eng lit class, screw it, and damn, the girl with the cute butt– she’s hot.

Not today, please, Marty’s not having it. Not rude, but distracted, focused, Marty blows them off, intent on the task at hand. He touches the blade under his coat, confidence, he’s not powerless now.

The big one, Ogre, strides down the hall. Him, bring him down first, element of surprise. The machete, cut him down to size, sever hamstrings, drop him to his knees, on his god damn knees like he forced Marty half his size. Cut his throat, hack, sever, decapitate, slice ‘n’ dice the ’tard.

Then Hoss, he stares at the rifle, sunken barrel shotgun wide, doesn’t grasp it’s only a .177, the calibre growing bigger along with his eyes. Control him at a distance, once up close, the machete, sabre slash, hack the cretin, moments count before Marty’s arrested or killed by cops, the Hoss won’t die, damn him, épée stab, cutlass kill.

Then police. Weapons down. He’s not upset with cops. Prosecutors try him as an adult, maybe life, sick-o but not too mental for the death penalty, say authorities, send a message, say authorities… violence won’t be tolerated in schools.

Except for bullies.
If he couldn’t save himself, maybe he could save others. That’s how Marty planned it a hundred times. ‘Ideate’ shrinks called it.

The boy meticulously worked his way through the first few steps, but he hadn’t counted on friends he could count on. Dale spotted the rifle under his coat, then the machete.

“Oh shit. Chip! Grab him.”

They hustled Marty into the restroom, kicked open doors to make sure they’re alone. They refused to let go of their friend. Machete, then rifle, they disarmed him.

“Marty, what the hell are you thinking?” asked Chip.

Dale said, “I know what you’re up to and it’s not going to work.”

“Leave me alone. Let me go, let me at them. Now or never, I can’t take one minute more.”

Chip leaned close. “Your head’s not on straight, man. You can’t win this, not this way.”

“Listen to us,” Dale said. “Their karma will come, but you can’t bring it on.”

“No, I…”

“Marty, you idiot. You think prison’s any better? Eternity with Bubba Butts and the lifers? Forget it, man.”

Gradually his friends coached the kid back to reality. They hurried him away, smuggling the weapons out, aware they’d helped Marty and the bullies dodge a bullet.

Over time as Marty grew muscular, bullies backed off. The boy and his friends graduated. He worked hard, often teaching himself. He married a wonderful woman, fathered three kids, children now much older than he was that long ago day. He put into practice the best revenge– living well.

Years after the near-fatal confrontation, he heard his name called in a store. Instantly he recognized Ogre. Marty’s nails bit into the palms of his hand. The pain, the anger, the frustration came rushing back.

“Marty? Hey, how are you doing? Where are you working? You married now?” Ogre hesitated. “Listen, man. I’m sorry for treating you like crap. We took things too far, I was an ass. I’m sorry, so damn sorry.”

Thoughts jousted– old hurt, torments, and anger, and yet Ogre had the guts to apologize. He hadn’t expected that. He nodded.

“Marty, I heard a rumor.”

“Yeah?”

“I, uh, heard you planned to kill me. Is that true?”

Marty nodded. “Absolutely planned to. I would have done it, if I hadn’t been stopped at the last moment.”

“Oh Jesus. I never realized how much I hurt you. Christ, I feel awful what we did to you. I’m sorry, really, really sorry.”

Marty accepted his apology. He understood he had one asset other school shooters didn’t have– two best friends.

Lifelong friends, you don’t forget an experience like that. Decades later, the boys still get together, shoot the breeze– girls, cars, sports, rat-prick jocks. Not the girl with the cute butt… Marty married her.

The boys, they chat and sometimes pontificate, but they never talk about the day they stopped a school killing.

09 November 2018

The Power of Prepositions


by Leigh Lundin

Far away and four times a thousand and one nights ago, this tale appeared in Criminal Brief. Dial in a little Rimsky-Korsakov and read on.


The Power of Prepositions
by Leigh Lundin

Aladdin was getting along in years and found that he was unable to pitch a tent as he had done in his youth. Smart as well as lucky, Aladdin still had his magic lamp and, frugal with his wishes, he had one wish left.
He rubbed his lamp and the génie appeared. Aladdin begged him, “My camel can no longer thread the needle. Can you cure my erectile impotence?”
Genie said, “I can whisk away your problem.” With that, he rubbed his hands, evoking a puff of billowing blue smoke. Genie said, “I’ve dealt you a powerful spell, but at your age, you’ll be able to invoke it only once a year.”
“How do I use it?” asked Aladdin.
“All you have to do is say ‘one, two, three,’ and it shall rise for as long as you wish, but only once a year.”
Aladdin asked, “What happens when I’m exhausted and I no longer want to continue?”
Genie replied, “All you or your lady has to say is ‘one, two, three, four,’ and it will fade like a Sahara sunset. But be warned: the spell will not work again for another year.”
Aladdin galloped home, eager to try out his new powers of the flesh. That evening, Aladdin bathed away the dust of the desert and scented himself with oil of exotic myrrh. He climbed into bed where his resigned wife lay turned away, about to slip into Scheherazadic dreams.
Aladdin took a deep breath and said, “One, two, three.” Instantly, he became more aroused than he ever had in youth, a magnificent happenstance of tree-trunk proportions.
His wife, hearing Aladdin’s words, rolled back toward him and said, “What did you say ‘one, two, three,’ for?”
And that, dear readers, is why you should not end a sentence with a preposition.

04 November 2018

Pardons


by Leigh Lundin

An article recently caught my notice, ‘A History of Pardons in South Carolina’. Not just the Palmetto State acts progressive, but Alabama too. Take that, Northerners. Your Southern neighbors sometimes can be enlightened and compassionate, too, although to be fair, Connecticut is right up there amongst forgiving states. Then we have Florida… one of four states that won’t restore voting rights or the right to freely travel without the governor’s unlikely approval. So much for paying one’s debt to society.

Crime and Over-Punishment

For those of us who keep track of crime and punishment, pardoning is promising news. Consider two statistics that should rock us back on our heels.
Why in the Land of the Free, are so many not? Is such a large percentage of our citizens truly that much worse than criminals in, say Yemen or Iran? In Cuba or North Korea?

Two parts of the problem are over-charging and over-sentencing. However, those may be symptoms rather than causes. I suggest the real causes are politics, power, and profit. As prison corporations have learned, keeping lots of prisoners locked up means major money and stockholder dividends. They pay the political piper and call the tune. The rest of us foot the bill.
The Music Man
Mothers of River City!
Heed the warning
Before it's too late!
Ya got trouble
Right here in River City!
With a capital ‘T’
That rhymes with ‘P’
And that stands for Pool,
We’ve surely got trouble!
Right here in River City.

American politicians find it more fruitful to embrace law-n-order than honesty and integrity, than care and concern. Lobbyists, the pimps of politics, and legions of state and federal legislators have honed to a fine art whipping up public fear.


Political operatives use simplistic grade school terror phrases like ‘three strikes’ and ‘stand your ground’, with a similar simple lack of thought to unintended consequences. Three-strike lawmakers tied the hands of judges and juries, forcing them to send a thief to prison for life… for stealing his third bicycle. Consequences that get people killed.

A Little Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or…) Forgiveness

Naturally, politicians abound who want to dismantle the pardon system despite their well-documented value and success. They point to number 243 out of 400 and say, “See? Less than two years after we pardoned him, he’s being investigated for domestic violence or drunk driving.” The answer is those pardoned are simultaneously well-behaved and mistake-prone as the rest of lawful society, which reaps benefits from the pardon programs.

Pardons help former offenders reintegrate into the social structure, integrate into the work force, integrate back into their own families. Pardons with public expungement shields make it possible for returning prisoners to land jobs, meaning they’ll less likely steal to feed and house themselves. They will be less likely to apply for unemployment and welfare.

At least that’s one opinion. Who’s to say I’m right? What do you think?

22 October 2018

B~L~O~O~D !   part 2


Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
by Leigh Lundin

We return to the spell-binding basics of blood for mystery writers and readers.The previous article carried a simplistic table for matching blood donors:

Simplified Blood Type Transfusions by Phenotype
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O A B AB
d
o
n
o
r
O
A

B

AB



That’s mostly accurate except the Rhesus factor isn’t taken into consideration. No donor with Rhesus positive blood can donate to an Rh negative recipient. This accounts for the gap in the upper right quadrant of the expanded table below:

Actual Blood Type Transfusions by Rh Factor
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O+ A+ B+ AB+ O- A- B- AB-
d
o
n
o
r
O+



A+





B+





AB+






O-
A-



B-



AB-






Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
The Story of O

O represents the German ohne, meaning omitted or zero antigens. Some regions and countries code the O as a 0 (zero) or ∅ (null). Students familiar with binary recognize this as a 2-bit situation with four values. Russia and a few other countries label O, A, B, AB blood types as I, II, III, IIII.

Type O negative has been called the universal donor, although the reality is a bit more intricate. Type AB positive people might be considered universal recipients.

Scientists have worked out a method of stripping A and B antigens from other blood types to create an artificial type O. The Rhesus factor still remains, so Rh- donations are sought allowing transfusions to any blood type.

But what, exactly, is the Rhesus factor? And what happens when man meets woman?

Rhesus Thesis– The Dark Side of Blood

The Rh blood group system (including the Rh factor) is one of thirty-five current human blood typing systems, the most important blood group system after ABO. At present, the Rh system defines fifty blood-group antigens, among which the five antigens C, c, E, e, and especially D are considered the most significant. Commonly used terms Rh factor, Rh-positive and Rh-negative refer solely to the D antigen. In summarizing the Rh factor,
  • Rh+ means the Rh D antigen is present.
  • Rh− means the Rh D antigen is absent.
Besides its role in blood transfusion, a prenatal blood test can determine blood type of a fetus. As a result, Rh blood grouping determines the risk of hemolytic disease of newborns (erythroblastosis fetalis), emphasizing prevention where possible.

babies Rh±
When the mother is Rh-negative and the father is Rh-positive, the fetus can inherit the Rh factor from the father, making the fetus Rh+ too. Problems can arise when the fetus’s blood has the Rh+ factor and the mother’s blood does not.

An Rh- mother may develop antibodies to her Rh+ baby, not uncommon if dribbles of the baby’s blood mixes with the mother's. The mother's body may respond as if it were allergic to the baby. The mother's body may make antibodies to the Rh antigens in the baby’s blood. This means the mother becomes sensitized. At that point, her antibodies may cross the placenta and impact the baby. Such an attack breaks down the fetus’ red blood cells, creating hemolytic anemia, a low red blood cell count. Severe cases cause illness, brain damage, or even death in a fetus or newborn. Allergen sensitization may occur any time fetus blood combines with the mother’s. Usually an Rh- mother miscarries an Rh+ fetus.
Most of us have offspring without thinking about such a subject, but problems do occur. When I was ten, a classmate’s family had struggled to have another child. They were devastated when attempts ended in perinatal deaths. We kids were saddened for our classmate, a boy we’d never before seen cry. At the time, we were told the problem was one of blood incompatibility. While we children weren’t privy to the particulars, something like the following probably occurred.
When an Rh- mother becomes pregnant with a Rh+ child, the mother’s immune system produces antibodies that attack the fetus’ red blood cells. A first child usually survives because the antibodies don’t appear until late in the pregnancy. However, in subsequent Rh+ pregnancies, antibodies are already in place. Even with extreme intervention, these children can die.

Blood Will Tell

Perhaps you’re writing a Halloween tale or a ghoulish Southern gothic involving a convoluted blood line. If you’re beset how a couple begets, check this handy table.

Blood Type Inheritance by Phenotype
❤︎ blood m o t h e r
blood type O A B AB
f
a
t
h
e
r
O O
    
O  A
    
O
B   
   A
B   
A O  A
    
O  A
    
O  A
B AB
   A
B AB
B O   
B   
O  A
B AB
O   
B   
   A
B AB
AB    A
B   
   A
B AB
   A
B AB
   A
B AB

For example, if Colonel D’Arcy is type A and Miss Annabelle Lee is type O and Baby Willie turns out type B… uh-oh. Oo-la-la as they say in N’Orleans, the colonel’s not the father he thought he was. A new tale is born.

——— Factoids ———

Bloodline Timeline

The type O bloodline was the original, dating back at least 200 000 years and likely two-million or more in ancestral primate lines. One theory suggest other blood types began to diverge as diet changed. Type AB arrived quite recently, only ten centuries ago, although a few researchers suggest an approximate AB date of 1000bc instead of 1000ad.
  • 1000,000 years ago, type O had long been the only type.
  • 100,000 years ago, type A appeared in Western Europe.
  • 10,000 years ago, type B appeared in Eastern Asia.
  • 1,000 years ago, type AB emerged as blood lines mixed.



Two blood cells met and fell in love…

Alas, it was all in vein.

I went trick or treating this year with friends. Good thing I dressed as a zombie… no one could tell it was their blood. My husband died when I couldn’t remember his blood type. I’d jotted A-positive on his donor card, but he kept whispering “Typo.”

My husband died when I couldn’t remember his blood type. As he gasped his last breath, he kept insisting for me to “be positive,” but it’s hard without him. My ex got into a bad accident recently. I told the doctors the wrong blood type. Now he’ll really know what rejection feels like.

Have a safe Halloween!

21 October 2018

B~L~O~O~D !   part 1


Erythrocyte (red blood cell)
Erythrocyte, Red Blood Cell with Type A+B Antigens
by Leigh Lundin

In the spirits of Halloween, SleuthSayers brings you a bloody fine tutorial, the basics of what an author needs to know about blood.

As crime writers, we often deal with blood, splatter, DNA and alleles in fiction and non-fiction. Today, we investigate a bleedin’ serious topic.

A+B antibodies
A+B Antibodies Schematic (Type O blood)
Bloody Detail

Erythrocyte is the technical name for a red blood cell. Scientists describe the shape as a biconcave disc or a toroid without a nucleus, meaning they’re vaguely shaped like a plastic kiddie pool or a fresh out-of-the-pack condom.

The cells contain the pigment hemoglobin that makes erythrocytes appear red. A cell’s primary duty is to carry oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body and transport carbon dioxide back to the lungs where the breathing process of ‘gas exchange’ takes place.
antigen
An antigen induces an immune response stimulating the production of antibodies. Blood antigens comprise types A and B. Either one, both or neither may appear as part of our blood cells.

epitope
The specific surface features of an antigen type are called epitopes. It’s debatable which is the key and which the lock, so it may be convenient to think of matching antigens and antibodies as jigsaw puzzle tabs. For convenience, our schema employs shapes of letters A and B to represent type A and B antigens.

antibody
Triggered by an immune response, antibodies individually key to epitopes. A particular antibody locks onto the shape of an antigen (A and/or B). Antibodies explain why care is exercised when matching blood donors.
They combine like this.

Blood Type Components and Characteristics
❤︎ ABO ABO blood constituents
blood type O A B AB
Erythrocytes (Red Blood Cells)
Red Blood Cell Antigens
Plasma Antibodies
blood type O A B AB
Blood Type Results Erythrocytes with neither antigen but plasma containing both type antibodies. Erythrocytes with type A surface antigens and plasma with type B antibodies. Erythrocytes with type B surface antigens and plasma with type A antibodies. Erythrocytes with both surface antigens but plasma without either antibody.

M-Mmm, Tasty

If you vampires think your honey’s blood is sweet, you have a point– the ‘A’s and ‘B’s in blood types are sugars. Moreover, under an SEM (scanning electron microscope), antigens lend red blood cells a sugary gumdrop look, quite unlike the glossy renderings we usually see.

Types A, B, and AB feature antigens on the surfaces of their cells. Notice how antibodies are ‘keyed’ to lock onto a particular type of antigen, kind of a socket. Antibodies in plasma can attack the wrong type antigens introduced into the blood stream.

Mayhap you feel it’s better to giveth than to receive. Not to be sanguine about these matters, we practice safe blood-letting. To help take the ‘ick’ out of ichor, following is a convenient Béla Lugosi table of tasty platelets for those special moments.

Simplified Blood Type Transfusions by Phenotype
❤︎ blood r e c i p i e n t
blood type O A B AB
d
o
n
o
r
O
A

B

AB



This explains why blood donations are carefully matched. A person with, say, type B antibodies in the plasma can’t mix blood with type B antigens (blood type B or AB): Only type A or O will serve. For practical purposes, a type O donor can give blood to everyone.

Contrarily, an AB- patient can receive from nearly anyone. Because of AB antigens, an AB donor can give blood only to another AB recipient.

——— Factoids ———

Bleeding Blue

Famously, Mr. Spock exhibited faintly green skin, purportedly because Vulcan blood flowed with copper-based hemocyanin rather than iron-based hemoglobin. Beyond Star Trek, other blood colors can be found. In fact, you’ve likely eaten some of them.

Creature copper carriers include shrimp, lobsters, certain crabs, some snails, crayfish, and squid. Octopuses are known for their copper-protein blood, albeit blue rather than green.

The New Guinea skink bleeds green, not because of copper, but because of staggering levels of biliverdin and bilirubin. The ocellated icefish, with neither iron or copper, carries clear blood in its veins.

Blue Bloods… and Green

Mention ‘blue bloods’ today and people think police. In centuries past, the term connoted nobility. Initially, ’sangre azul’ referred to Spanish royalty, whereupon the phrase spread throughout Europe. But why blue?

Serfs, slaves, and commoners typically labored outdoors in fields and forests, accumulating muscles, thicker skin, and tanned flesh. Such ‘rednecks’ looked markedly different from the aristocracy, usually known for their pale, sunless skin revealing blue veins.

Two other hypotheses about royal blue bloods prove difficult to verify. One suggestion premised that royalty often suffered from hæmophilia, rendering the skin and veins even paler. A somewhat more intriguing idea set forth the notion that a lifetime of exposure to silver serving dishes, wine cups, and table utensils, may have given the skin a pale blue cast.

green Leigh
[On a personal note, during school breaks in my teens, I experienced considerable exposure to copper. During those summers, I literally sweated green. Notice the pointy ears? The Frankenstein flair?]



Tomorrow, grab that sphygmomanometer. We’re bringing you more bloody information.

07 October 2018

Talking Turkey


by Velma

Tomorrow Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and, in case you wondered, Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving the first Thursday in November. The time or place matters little to bachelors who celebrate the holiday much the same no matter when or where.


A Bachelor Thanksgiving
in honour of the Canadian holiday
arrangement in ironic pentameter
by deservedly anonymous


Thanksgiving cornucopia
I think I shall never sniff
A poem as lovely as a whiff
Of turkey and mashed po—
tatoes and frozen snow–

Peas in vast disproportion
As I gulp another portion.
Cranberry sauce, count me a fan,
Maintains the shape of the can.

Cheap beer and cheaper whiskey
Makes the shallow heart grow frisky.
Three litre jugs of screw-capped wine
First tastes horrible, then tastes fine.

Deli turkey, cellophane wrapped.
Processed ham and all that crap.
Sherbet, ice cream, anything frozen,
Packaged cupcakes by the dozen,

Ruffled chips and onion dip,
Reddi-Wip and Miracle Whip,
Maple frosting found in tins
Hide the worst culinary sins.

Seven-fifty millilitres of
Grain vodka labeled Scruitov,
Cheap brandy and cheaper beer
First smells awful, then tastes queer.

Pumpkin pie and store-bought cake,
Anything I need not bake.
If it’s boxed, if it’s canned,
I’m no gourmet, only gourmand.

Chorus    

Baseball, football on the TV.
One spilt bowl of poutine gravy.
This little poem with each verse,
I give thanks if it grows no worse.
vintage post card wreath turkey

vintage post card children, turkey, pumpkin

We admit nothing except Happy Thanksgiving. Graphics courtesy of Antique Images, The Holiday Spot, and Spruce Crafts.

23 September 2018

Truth in Advertising 2


by Leigh Lundin

The 300
My friend Steve has a thing about penguins, but here his girl­­­­friend Sharon might draw the line. A self-aware, almost-23-year-old girl struggled to offer up her collection of three-hundred penguins. 300. God love her:
    “I’m going through a pretty weird time in my life right now– having just gone through a break-up and grad­­uated college and temporarily living in my parents’ house… Sifting through my room (which has become a strange amalgam of my adoles­­cence and burg­­eoning adult­hood), it’s been brought to my attention that I probably won’t ‘catch a man’ or have any­­one believe I’m about to turn 23 with 300 penguins and a bunch of purple furniture around, that looking at my current room one might think some sort of 13-year-old with develop­­­­mental issues is living here.”
As mentioned last week, I ended up with a couple of vehicles I didn’t need and decided to sell them through Craig’s List. They were flawed and I made that as clear as possible. It occurred to me both had a criminal element behind them, hence today’s article.

In case anyone wondered, there really is a Craig, Craig Newmark. He and CEO Jim Buckmaster (known for his haiku error messages) run the company in San Francisco. Craig’s List solved the problem of intense antipathy between sales and technical staff by employing no salesmen, which caused revenues to soar. At one point, eBay bought a 25% stake in the company, but after an exchange of lawsuits over eBay’s misuse of proprietary information, Craig’s List bought out eBay’s interest.

Craig’s List as Entertainment

Once Craig’s List converted from simply carrying local events to job listings to want ads for goods and services, peculiar items began to surface. Adverts appeared for positive pregnancy tests and ‘clean’ urine, apparently prized by drug users.

One person wanted to hire a full-time texting assistant at $10 an hour. A bride-to-be suffering a shortage of bridesmaids advertised for young women, “hot, but not hotter then me.”

Another girl worried about her sanity wanted to solve a mystery– The Case of the Clueless Chick. I have a possible solution, too. Many chickens can fly, so she might have spotted a Bantam on the fire escape.

A purse-snatcher became smitten with his victim. That’s not actually the creepiest part– you have to read it.

Amusing ads began to show up. My favorite offered an autographed first edition of Plato's Republic. Socrates would have been proud.

Then we glance at the pets section. “This kitty … will fiercely defend your house, even against you. Has a very soft and furry belly like a teddy bear – however he will bite your face if you try to touch it. For the love of God, someone please take this thing out of my house.”

That’s how I felt about the following Ford Explorer in this second part about cars and petty crimes.

2. Ford Explorer

A pleasant lady with an unpleasant adult son happened to owe me for services rendered. The debt, the lady, the obnoxious son… The advertisement below explains it. (No, that's not the son, but a generic police photo.) Within the past few days, someone flagged the ad, thinking it promoted drugs rather than opposed them. Sheesh, some people can’t read. Oh well… I’ve already sold it.

CL Orlando > for sale > cars & trucks > by owner…

1999 Ford Explorer

generic prison inmate (face blurred) make:
model:
year:
VIN:
condition:
cylinders:
drive:
fuel:
odometer:
paint:
size:
title:
trans:
type:
Ford
Explorer
1999
1FMZU3…
fair
6
4WD
gasoline
155 500
white
full-size
clean
auto
SUV

I ended up with this white 1999 Ford Explorer in the weirdest way. A woman decided to get her son a new car as a reward for staying off drugs. Days later, police arrested him for dealing. Mom was furious. To pay his legal and rehab fees, she got rid of her son’s old car and I ended up with it. It’s not beautiful, but it’s tough.

Comes with a hi-end radio. Rear seats fold to make a bed or extend the storage. Features cast alloy wheels, police push bar, and no cocaine. Promise.

Transmission rebuilt by AAMCO. I need to rebuild the guts of the driver’s door- replace the power lock and probably the window mechanism. Buy it before I finish, you save money. Catch yourself a deal- I’m looking for best offer, dime bags and kilos not accepted.






16 September 2018

Truth in Advertising 1


by Leigh Lundin

Craig’s List
In an unusual local ad, a young lady offered men’s shaving services for free, beards and mustaches not included. Curious, I queried the offerer, who politely wrote back.
    She’s an Orlando UCF student. Her privates shaving service really is free– not even tips allowed. Her clients are mannerly, and she finds her hobby challenging, entertaining, and stimulating.
    Maybe it’s just me, but why not? I can’t pinpoint why, but her avocation oddly charmed me. Surely a romance author or French film-maker could find an offbeat story here.
I ended up with a couple of vehicles I didn’t need and decided to sell them through Craig’s List. They were flawed and I made that as clear as possible. It occurred to me both had a criminal element behind them, hence today’s article.

Craig’s List and Small Crimes

Craig’s List has become an international institution, represented in seventy or so countries. Oddly, the US has the most restrictions. Although CL has helped federal authorities solve crimes, state and local prosecutors threatened lawsuits against the enterprise, claiming its personals facilitated prostitution. Politicians further surmised it could encourage pedophilia, citing approximately the same proof found in Alex Jones’ favorite pizza parlour. Sorry, boys and girls, Craig bent to political pressure and shuttered its personals section.

But today’s column (and next week’s) is about cars and petty crimes.

1. Mercedes 450SL

Restoring a forty-year-old sports car started out as a project until other matters intervened. Needing the garage for other things, I parked it in front, whereupon a local kid vandalized it, as described in the following ad copy.

Turns out, after I placed the ad, the State of Florida couldn’t locate all its records, including chain of ownership. It further appeared a woman from Canfield, Ohio may have forged signatures on its title. The DMV is still working out this unexpected wrinkle. In the meantime, I ran this ad and, like a good writer, I told its story.

CL Orlando > for sale > cars & trucks > by owner…

1978 Mercedes 450SL

1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL make:
model:
year:
VIN:
condition:
cylinders:
drive:
fuel:
paint:
size:
title:
trans:
type:
Mercedes
450SL
1978
107044…︎

pathetic
4.5L V-8
RWD
gasoline
blue
sports
?
auto
roadster
conv

A charming teen miscreant vandalized my 1978 Mercedes 450SL. Neighbors explained I’m not allowed to dismember the little shìt, so I’m selling my poor car for the highest offer.

Specs
Body: 2-seater cabriolet designed by Friedrich Geiger. Engine: 4.52 litre 90° V-8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection. Suspension: independent double wishbone diagonal-pivot swing axle Speed: rated 210kmph, in excess of 130mph. At 100kmph, the machine tachs at a mere 2865rpm. Overall: sexy.

The roadster can be switched from a hardtop to convertible. Both hard and soft tops come with this vehicle. The paint code is Gentian Blue.

Note
It needs a lot of work. CL has no ‘rough’ option, so to be fair, I’m telling you it’s rough. I rebuilt the engine, so retorque head-bolts. I’ve tried to document the damage, mainly smashed windows and shredded tires.

If you always wanted a classic Mercedes sports machine and love tinkering on motorcars, now is your chance. Save back enough cash to sand, repaint, and fix the damn windows and tires, then make me an offer I can't refuse. Hey, I might need the money for bail if I catch that little window-smashing sod.


Can’t get more forthright than that, can I? Next week, I sell a dumb drug dealer’s SUV.

02 September 2018

Women in Peril


by Leigh Lundin

Janice Law’s article inspired today’s column…

Just the facts, ma’am.

Nancy Drew’s fan base loved women in peril. Encouraged by old man Stratemeyer, Mildred Wirt Benson (aka Carolyn Keene) wrote Nancy as an independent, impulsive, and headstrong 1930s girl. I'm not sure how this factors in, but when Edward Stratemeyer’s daughters took over in the 1960s, Harriet rewrote the first three dozen novels making Nancy less impetuous, less independent, and women-in-peril continued to attract readers. Why?

Evidence suggests we become more engaged and outraged when a pretty girl is killed. Outrage sells movies. It sells books. It stirs our emotions. Could The Virgin Suicides have been written about five brothers?

M-F homicide deaths 7:2
Besides violence toward women tearing at our hearts, we may take extra notice because, despite a plethora of movies and television shows to the contrary, female homicide victims are considerably less common. Of every nine people murdered, seven will be male. [2010] Perhaps it isn't fair to suggest Poe’s and Clark’s women-in-peril stories ramp up violence or actual homicide.

Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Higgins Clark apparently scored emotional bullseyes. They knew how to play upon our fears, male and female. Protectiveness of loved ones is hard-wired in male DNA. So often when one gender feels strongly about something, the opposite sex experiences the mirror image.

What if political, patriarchal, anger-against-women motives don’t drive the industry? Could something deeper be going on?

Our Inner Cave(wo)man

An explanation offered by psychologist Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, offers spellbinding insight. She asserts the innermost mind is anything but politically correct. She articulates it in talks and texts better than I, but she says the secret pleasures that turn us on at night are the same we protest during the day.

Perel’s field centers upon our hidden, primitive, self-subversive psychology. When the lights go out, we change. We revert.

Biological components have been recognized since forever. Danger… fear… jeopardy fuel concupiscence. The underlying theory goes that great risk of life ignites a need to procreate, to ensure survival of the species.

Once in an agony column, a husband wrote in, worried about his wife. Immediately following a car accident, she wanted to rush home and make love– cuts and scrapes be damned. Had the accident damaged her mentally? Of course not. Faced with mortality, her survival instinct kicked into gear, a strong, healthy response.

Wars embody the most frightening fears. They’re irrational, society has gone mad, the rules have shattered. Death could arrive in an instant. Population figures show a leveling of growth when heading into a war, but once existence is somewhat assured, survivors mate— often. The term ‘Baby Boomers’ wasn’t idly selected.

US population growth chart

Movie makers discovered early on a simplistic formula: fear=aphrodisiac. Teens didn’t flock to drive-in horror movies for the production qualities, but reproduction qualities.

My friend Crystal Mary, the staunchest feminist I know, loves slasher films, flicks I, God help me, can barely watch between my fingers. Her eyes brighten, her neck flushes, and she bounces home in an ebullient mood. Never for a second would she approve of violence toward women. What’s happening? Me, a diet of slasher movies would give me nightmares, but Crystal Mary’s able to connect with an uncomplicated, elemental part of her being. The premises of Mary Higgins Clark and Edgar Allan Poe she could understand.

What is your take? Could Clark and Poe have stumbled upon the secret that our fears drive the most rousing plots? Can you stomach blood-n-guts horror films better than Leigh? Are you able to serve as designated driver?