Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts

28 June 2024

Pike County Massacre


In 2016, while we bemoaned the deaths of one or two celebrities a week, eight members of the Rhoden family were shot to death in rural Pike County. I often refer to Holmes County, where my parents lived, as "Amish Mafia Country" (some of the scenes from that best-forgotten series shot there), Holmes benefits from proximity between the sprawling Cleveland-Akron metro area and Columbus. Pike County, on the other hand, is Appalachia without the Appalachians. It is truly isolated as most of southwest Ohio is.

Primary crime scene Pike County Massacre
Peebles, Ohio
Peebles

Crime in rural sections is not uncommon. In fact, it's almost a cliché. SA Cosby has built a career on it, doing for Virginia what Ken Bruen has done for Galway, Ireland (and getting less flack for it from his own neighbors.)

In some ways, Pike County is idyllic. Its seat, the village of Peebles, is a frequent stop for those going to and from the hiking mecca of Hocking Hills. My youngest stepson and his wife frequently visit a campground in the area. Pike County almost never makes the news in Cincinnati and Columbus, never mind CNN.

Yet eight people were found dead in their homes, all members of the Rhoden family. Even before the investigation began, many speculated this was a revenge killing. 

Suspicion soon fell on George "Billy" Wagner. But from the outset, evidence pointed to multiple shooters. Eventually, Wagner, his wife Angela, and sons George IV and Jake were indicted. In the interim, the case became more and more complex. Police found marijuana growing operations on the Rhodens' properties, as well as a cockfighting operation. So was this a mob hit? As mass shootings go, it did not have the mindlessness of Columbine or the deliberate rage toward strangers as seen at a Florida gay nightclub. This looked targeted.

Police and the state attorney general took their time. The case led as far south as Lexington, Kentucky, but as far away as Alaska, where the Wagner family moved after the slayings. Suspicion finally fell on Billy Wagner as the mastermind. Yet then motive had nothing to do with drugs or illegal cockfighting.

Four main suspects in Pike County murders

The motive, according to prosecutors, was a three-year-old girl, Hannah Rhoden's child by George Wagner IV. Wagner's grandmother, eventually indicted alongside Billy Wagner and his immediate family, forged a custody document granting rights to George IV. When that failed, the Wagners went to war.

While the case took two-and-a-half years to crack, by 2022, juries convicted five members of the Wagner family with murder and conspiracy to conceal murder. In a state infamous for serial killer Donald Harvey, the Cleveland Torso murderer, and the Sam Shepard murder case, the Pike County Massacre has become the largest murder investigation in Ohio.

30 December 2022

2022 Rearview


Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

By the time you read this, I will be finishing up the 104th book I've read this year. This includes Audible. It's rare I can read that many books in a year. Had I not learned to speed read, I probably would not have pulled this off. With the ability to speed read certain books, I actually could give them the attention they deserved (or didn't.)

The Herculean reading list was driven in part by wanting to finish Stephen King's canon. Assuming only one book in 2023 for Mr. King, I probably will wrap up this years-long project with Holly in October. As I finish up the two latest, Gwendy's Final Task and Fairy Tale, I'll turn my attention to the Bachman books. Rage, which is now out of print by King's request, will likely be the most difficult to read in this era of school shootings. Road Work, though short, will probably be the slog I remember when I first read it twenty years ago.

I also rotated through some classics – Twain, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, as well as Harold Bloom's list of novels from How to Read. One from this last list proved to be a massive disappointment. Another I decided to save for later due to its sheer length and a lack of an Audible version that wasn't a glorified radio drama. So what did I read this year?

I'll skip science fiction unless it fits a category here.

First Book: Galway Girl by Ken Bruen. Until this year, I made it a point to start with one of Bruen's Taylor novels. Due to a release date issue, I read is last in November. But Galway Girl seems to be a mulligan for Em's fate in a previous book. A new foil, a virtual clone of Em (deliberately so, as we find out), comes to menace Jack. It's not bad, but gone are Ridge and Maeve. Father Malachy is a more reluctant antagonist. And Clancy is nowhere to be seen except in a couple of scenes. We're left wondering just how much more Jack can take at the hands of his creator, meaning Bruen. We find out in the follow-up, A Galway Epiphany, which I also read this year.

Last Book: We can look at it two ways: on the day I'm writing this, I finished King's On Writing, one of a handful of books I reread annually or every other year. But on the day you read this, I'll be wrapping up an ARC of Right Between the Eyes by Scott Loring Sanders. So far, Right Between the Eyes is turning into a cross between a Stephen King novel with its small-town New England setting and an SA Cosby book, semi-rural crime with lots of secrets and lies.

On Writing, of course, is a must-read for any writer. The book never seems the same to me twice. Maybe because, while I reread it more than other books, I don't read that often.

Best Book Read This Year: Under Color of Law by Aaron Philip Clark. Clark's Detective Trevor Finnegan is setup to fall as he investigates the death of a brother officer. Finn, as he's called, decided to be a cop to "make a difference," even giving up a promising art career to do it.

Rather than a tirade on race, Clark paints a nuanced portrait of LA's racial tension. He does point a finger at the LAPD of the nineties for the present undercurrent of distrust. But Finn is uniquely positioned to see both sides. Yes, police brutality and systematic racism are very real, but Clark manages to convey something that gets lost in the narrative. With each shooting of an unarmed civilian and each violent protest that follows, police officers feel something they're paid not to show: Fear. And each incident makes it worse. Yet Finn understands why a black man also feels fear, so it's double for him with a foot in each world. 

Clark gets the whole picture, all the while having Finn confront the same corrupt department politics we normally see. His solution doesn't give his would-be rivals the satisfaction they crave.

Biggest Disappointment: Portrait of a Lady. And some heads are probably exploding over this one. Too bad. I pulled this one from a list of novels recommended by the late Harold Bloom in his book How to Read. Harold owes me an apology. The book begins with the author doing his own literary criticism, which left me screaming, "That's not how this works! That's not how any of this works!" And then we're treated to fifty pages of the problems of rich people. I am aware I said this as someone who also watches The Crown and Succession. The former, though, is history through people who are supposed to represent it. The latter is watching the 1% trip over themselves trying to rule the world. (And let's be honest, it's a joy to watch Brian Cox work.) This started with a bunch of bankers sniffing disdainfully at how it must be sad not to be a rich Victorian. I barely got to see the lady of the title before I bailed. 

This is one of those books we're supposed to read, and somehow, King found it praiseworthy. King also likes Roger Corman films whereas I generally skip them unless they have three silhouettes at the bottom making wise-ass comments. (Mind you, Corman has mentored generations of filmmakers, so he can make a movie about Prince Harry's grocery list for all I care. The next Tarantino may learn something from it.)

Biggest Surprise: Ohio: A Novel. This one hit a little close to home. These were Millennials growing up in a town not too dissimilar to the burb where I grew up. It's even set in NE Ohio, my old stomping grounds. My mind's eyes supplied Lucas, Ohio, a town near where my parents spent their final years, as the set surrounding this drama involving five local kids who return as adults for the funeral of a classmate who died a war hero. Ohio captures the despair of the Rust Belt from a generation that doesn't remember when Big Steel and Big Auto ruled. A sixth member of the group is missing. It seems she's gone to Southeast Asia and disappeared, but her actual fate is teased out over the novel It becomes clear that Ohio is less about a fallen war hero who was not the paragon from his eulogy and more about this missing woman who mysteriously still writes home.

Newest Addiction: SA Cosby. This year, I read Blacktop Wilderness and Razorblade Tears. Had to wait until December for the rerelease of My Darkest Prayer, which will be second read of the new year. Cosby does what Ken Bruen does: Paints a dark portrait of a very real place. Instead of Galway, we get Virginia, away from the Beltway and the DC suburbs. Like Pelecanos's DC, which ignores the "visitors," Cosby writes about the south, how religion and race and poverty all go into the stew that is southern culture. Some pieces are quite unpleasant, but the whole is not. And if we're going to call it a stew, then SA Cosby is a master chef.


28 November 2022

Literary Land up for Grabs


There comes a time in life when the phrase, "if only I was younger," comes all too readily. A smooth sheet of ice on the state forest pond, a foot of new snow in the field, and, occasionally, an idea of a topic that might once have been perfect, all elicit the same nostalgic cry: "if only!"

That was my reaction recently when I made my way through Peter Cozzens'

Tecumseh and The Prophet, a detailed history of the two remarkable Shawnee brothers who tried to stem the tide of American settlers, land speculators, and soldiers into what had been Indian country in Ohio and the rest of the Old Northwest.

Brave, handsome, personable, and multi-lingual, Tecumseh impressed nearly everyone who met him, Americans and British as well as the chiefs and warriors of the various tribes whom he tried to convince to make a united front against the newcomers. What he didn't know, and what his scapegrace, but charismatic, brother, The Prophet, only realized late in life, was that not intelligence, not courage, not even weaponry was against the native peoples, but demography.

While European diseases and internecine warfare had greatly weakened the Shawnees, Creeks, Cherokees, the Iroquois Nation, and the rest, it was the unstoppable tide of European immigration, combined with the high Colonial and early Federal American birthrates that tipped the scales against the tribes. 

With ever-accelerating speed, land-hungry settlers and ambitious speculators crossed supposedly sacred treaty lines, cut down the forests, and killed the game. When they were met with violence, they called for troops to push the tribal people back to yet another temporary treaty line. It's a sad story and one that does not reflect well on our early days as a nation.

And that is perhaps one reason why, despite a surfeit of possibilities for crime, skulduggery, scams, heroism, betrayals, daring raids, and eccentric characters, the early Federal period on the frontier rarely appears in mystery fiction. Indeed, except for James Fenimore Cooper's works featuring the Colonial period in what is now New York State, the abundant possibilities of guerrilla warfare, militias, land speculation (Cozzens points out how many of our Founding Fathers were engaged in this dubious art), plus the machinations of politicians Indian and American, arms dealers, fur traders, and liquor purveyors has gone virtually untapped by writers.

But historical squeamishness may not be the whole story. After all "cowboys and Indians" plot lines kept Hollywood in cash for decades, so it may be as simple as the fact that current mystery writing is still very much in thrall to three models, two of them British: the beloved cozy with the amateur detective, the Victorian prototype immortalized by Arthur Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes, and our own 20th century tough guy PI in deepest Noir territory.

So ingrained are these prototypes that our own Michael Bracken stipulated in a recent anthology call: All, or a significant portion, of each story must be set in the 21st Century. And he added, for those mathematically challenged, (That’s 2001 to the present day.)  

A story set in Ohio in 1812 clearly wouldn't fit the bill for Michael at the moment, but considering that we regularly see short stories set in Greece or Rome or early Britain, it is too bad that such a fertile and virtually untouched literary landscape is neglected.

If only I were younger!


24 July 2022

Bed, Bath, and Beyond: The Rooming House, part 2


Tales from the Rooming House

Last week I introduced you to the cast of the guest home where I rented a room rather than stay in a hotel for a six month project. I bring you a little more about my landlady, God love her.

Kitchen Computer

The kitchen held a computer for the landlady and anyone else who needed to use one. One day when the house had emptied, she shyly approached me.

“Will you, um, see uh, I have a prob… er, I shouldn’t ask, but… well, I made a mistake and, uh, no, never mind, I just felt… if you… you work with, um, computers, right? No, it’s not fair… to ask, you know, I’m sorry, see. Forget it.”

“Tell me what the problem is.”

She sniffled into a tissue. “Well, um, I went on a web site… or maybe two sites or so. And uh, I gave them my credit card number, er, and I can’t get it back. They um, keep charging me.”

pseudo-porn
“Okay. No sweat. Let’s sit down and figure it out.”

Poor lady. She flushed fifty shades of red. She’d worked up considerable courage to ask me. Respecting her vulnerability, I strove to be kind, gentle, and non-judgmentally professional.

She trembled too much to type the URL, so she slid over while I drove. I didn’t flick an eyelash when she spelled out the address of an ‘enticing teen boys’ porn site. Miserably, she said, “The other’s a bisexual-lesbian teen site.”

“We’ll do this in two steps,” I said. “First we’ll terminate your account and billing. See, that’s done. We’ll do the same thing on the other site, and bingo, that’s done. But to be safe, let’s tell the credit card company not to accept payments from these guys.”

She didn’t say anything, but dabbed her eyes with a soggy Kleenex. I’ve developed a habit of being deliberately incurious about personal matters. Humans are born naturally inquisitive creatures. No one should be punished for lifting the lid of their own curiosity.

I said, “I can set up a secret folder where you can store personal things, you know, bank information, private letters, and uh, home movies and the like. Only if you want.”

“Oh yes. Could you help me set my profile on a singles site?”

Her bio was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, but she wouldn’t let me change them. “No one will care,” she said. I thought it might restrict her potential dating pool, but kept my opinion to myself.

Other than confirming her credit card charges had ceased, neither of us mentioned those web sites again.

The Bickering Fair Ones

I wasn’t used to breakfasts amid mere acquaintances lounging in underthings, but I like to think I handled it with panache. Then I worried; were they treating me as one of the girls? Whew. Fortunately not.

“Jesus, Jill. Can’t you hook your own damn bra?”
“Yeah, Jill. What did you do before he arrived?”
“Shut up, sluts. You’re just jealous of these.”
“Wait til she asks him to do her front clasp.”
“Oh ♩♫Leeeeigh. Can you stuff these in for me?”
Ƒ you. What about Gail’s flash dances?”
“What? Me?”
“Dashing between rooms with only a tea towel.”
“It’s a bath towel.”
“For a hamster. I have hankies bigger than that.”
“Don’t be so mean. You’re so…”
“Aw shit, Gail. We didn’t mean to make you cry.”

Their sniping revealed a drama I wasn’t aware of. With my nose in technical manuals, I had been studying and oblivious. The landlady explained. Apparently Gail, the youngest of the group, wore less than usual when I was in-house, so to speak.

“They’re teasing her because she wants the attention of the only male in the house. Her heart was just broken and she craves validation.”

“Validation… I don’t understand.”

“She just wants you to notice her. Be a friend, that’s all. Be kind. She’s more fragile than she thinks. Neither of you needs rebound romance. Just buy her a rose one day. That will do nicely.”

I had been clueless sixteen ways from Sunday. I humbly felt as if our local High Priestess of Womanly Wisdom had guided me on a path where otherwise I would have fallen flat on my face. Or put another way, guys can be dumb and she saved me from myself.

bedroom floor plan

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

After my initial months of exemplary behavior, the landlady switched me to a larger room at the end of the hall across from hers. A mirror hung at the end of the corridor between the landlady’s room and mine, convenient for the women to check their makeup before heading out in public. Unlike the rest of us, she usually left her bedroom door open and I paid no attention to the darkened expanse of her doorway.

Because my schedule meant I was the last to rise and depart, the landlady asked if I would let her dog out for a bound around the garden before I left for work. No problem. I agreed.

Now, I sleep nude. Don’t judge me. Just sayin’. I don’t have patience with bedclothes.

Once I felt comfortable that only I remained in the house each day, I clambered out of bed naked, immediately let the dog out, and hit the shower amid its rain forest canopy of panty hose. Bras and knickers obscured the steamy mirror, so after bath, I stepped into the hall. Still starkers, I brushed my hair reflected in the mirror. No issues, I always made certain I was alone.

One morning I let the dog out, shaved, showered, brushed my hair before the hall mirror, dressed, let the dog in, threw on my jacket, dashed out the door, and…

There in the driveway stood my landlady’s car.

But where was the landlady? I’d already locked up and didn’t have time to investigate, but that evening, she looked at me speculatively.

I said, “Did you stay home today?”

“Uh-huh. I called in sick.”

“Er, this morning when I got up, uh, my back and forth to the bathroom, brushing my hair in the hall mirror, um, you saw all that?”

“Yes.” Her cat-licking-cream smile hovered between impish delight and giggly satisfaction.

Bed, Bath, and Beyond logo

“Everything?”

“Oh, yes. Every bit.”

“Your room was dark, I didn’t realize…”

“I know.” Her smile turned gleeful. “I know.”

We never mentioned that again either. She might have shared that little adventure with the other women, but I think not. Maybe she appreciated I’d kept her secret, but really, she was just a good person.

My contract ended not long after, but for a guy without sisters, the ladies educated me in record time.

17 July 2022

Bed, Bath, and Beyond: The Rooming House, part 1


How many landladies does it take to change a light bulb?
None. She bills you for a 25-watt bulb and lets you replace it.
buckeyes
Ohio buckeyes

A conversation with Melodie Campbell brought me back to a landlady in Columbus, Ohio. I’d travelled to America’s heartland for a six-month consulting project. Usually I stayed in hotels or occasionally in a company-owned apartment, but this time I opted to stay in a guest home, the only male in the house, the first time this landlady felt brave enough to accept one. For dialogue and character study, the house made a great observation post.

Roommates

Initially, I was assigned the smallest room, fine with me. It was a place to bathe and sleep, not socialize. As roommates came and went, the landlady upgraded our rooms depending upon seniority.

The house's female population varied fluidly depending upon who was upset at whom, who said the wrong thing, and who was going out with someone else’s man. Hostilities simmered and sometimes erupted. Everyone was very pleasant to me as internecine animosities and alliances came and went.

Snatches of conversations went:

“Who used up the half-n-half?”
“Um, you?”
“Slut.”
“I’m late again. My boss will have a cow.”
“Of course he will, the moment you arrive.”
“I’ll ignore that.”
“Hon,” (speaking to me) “Darling, hook my bra, please.”
“Why bother, Jill. You’ll only beg him to unhook it later.”
“Bitch.”
“Slut.”
“Did you pick up my dry cleaning?”
“Did you find it in the closet?”
“Bitch.”
“Shut up.”

I avoided much soap opera by working late into the night and setting my alarm after others left for the day. Occasionally one or another of the ladies snagged me to pour out her heart, typically a grievance with another of the tenants, usually man-related.

At the center of much angst was naturally a guy, a jerk. He’d gone out with at least three of the women including the landlady. The ass pitted them against one another and made outsized demands to prove they were worthy. They should have buried him in the back yard, but at that time of year the ground was frozen and snowed over. They’d have to wait for spring.

Maluku postage stamp

Bath

I grew up without sisters. Even though I’ve lived with girlfriends, they shared my residence one at a time, not in a group. I wasn’t prepared for a bathroom decorated with a dozen pairs of pantyhose and other bits of underwear strung on the shower rod, the sink, and the mirror.

I can’t deny I haven’t come face to face with micro-bikinis (shut up, Eve!), but in those circumstances I wasn’t paying much attention to those thongy things. In the harsh, florescent light of a bathroom, either a geometry mystery or an engineering marvel emerged. For folks who’ve been distracted by the higher level events in our world, thongs consist of strings and a tiny triangle the size of a Moluccan postage stamp. My inner anatomist turned all geek, calculating an inch and a half per side does not a covering make.

A = ½ W × H

The bathroom was loaded with bottles and aerosol cans of hairsprays, deodorants, creams, powders, and many, many mystery items. I sought space for shampoo and shave cream, finally putting my razor on the highest rack in the shower.

On day two, the shampoo level of my Head & Shoulders startled me. The new bottle was now half full… or half empty. Oh well. I lathered up and then… I was pretty sure I left the cap on the Barbasol, but a white snake of foam across the tub suggested Goldilocks of the Three Bears had helped herself. I slathered on shaving cream, picked up my razor, and…

“¡Ye-ouch! Holy ƒ-ing #¥‡€¢§¶™ Mother of a G.” Someone used my razor to shave the three bears, the house dog, and a sisal door mat.

Some problems I solved by purchasing shampoo and shaving cream with hyper-masculine ingredients like diesel fuel, saddle soap, gun oil and names like Strike Force Command, the man’s manly man products with 20% more testosterone.

Bathroom conversations went:

“Don’t touch my Pantene, ever. It’s mine.”
“Twit.”
“Twat.”
“That’s what I meant.”
“If I find who stole my conditioner…”
“Who used up the Redken?”
“Janet, goddammit. Will you stop leaving hair in the tub?”
“Not me. I didn’t shampoo.”
“I didn’t say you shampooed, I said you left hair in the tub. Shave that thing somewhere else.”
“Bitch.”
“Slut.”

I became aware of two important things.

  1. I was lucky to be accepted by a houseful of women.
  2. If the rôles were reversed, a women in a house of men wouldn’t find it any easier.
Ohio State Buckeyes
More Ohio Buckeyes

Kitchen

The resident’s kitchen featured only a small table and three chairs, plus a community refrigerator. I needed room only for milk and juice. Three days after buying milk, it disappeared. I bought another. Then the orange juice and milk disappeared. Now we had a problem.

Complaints of office mates nabbing bits from the common fridge occasionally happened, but I hadn’t expected food theft where I rent. I approached the landlady.

She said, “It wasn’t one of the girls. I threw it out.”

“What? Why”

“It had been in the fridge three days already.”

“Okay. Why?”

“Because they were three days old. The expiration date was coming up.”

“I’m confused. The milk and juice weren’t sour, they hadn’t come close to the sell-by date, and you tossed them? I don’t get it.”

“Because of the date stamp. I don’t want anyone getting deathly sick.”

“You’re saying the expiration date means you’ll expire?”

“Absolutely.”

“Drink expired juice and you’ll die or something?”

“Certainly. I don’t want responsibility for sending anyone to the hospital. They put those date stamps there for a reason. The nearer you get to it, the more certain you’ll get sick. I don’t want oldness germs infecting other foods. Milk or any crap in there more than two, three days goes.”

My dear landlady was a lovely person, but she lived in fear of best-before dates. She was convinced expiration dates meant personal expiration by black death.

Beyond

And yet, I was oddly honored to be accepted by the house.

Next time: The Naked Truth

28 January 2022

One-Horse Town


 This week, I'm working on a short story, the first in a while that isn't intended for a specific market. Remember that old cliche with the woman tied to a railroad track as the 3:15 to Yuma bears down on her? It's a staple of westerns, but I thought about what that might actually entail if it really happened in 2022. It helps that, on the two days I go into the office, I drive through a quaint little village called Glendale, which is bisected by a major CSX line. Yes, I'm a dork. I watch the trains. So, I fictionalized the village and needed a name.

Do you know how hard names are to come up with? It took me years, literally, to come up with Monticello for Holland Bay. And like a lot of my small town stories, this one takes place in the fictitious constellation of suburbs around Monticello. But it needs a name.

I considered Fernwood and discarded it. Fernwood, for those of you of a certain age, served as the setting for two shows, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Fernwood 2night. Based on a clip from the latter, in which Tom Waits is shanghaied into performing "The Piano Has Been Drinking," I deduced Fernwood existed somewhere along the Ohio Turnpike., which crosses the northern part of the state. Well, Monticello sits to the north, and Fernwood gets a passing mention in both Holland Bay and several short stories that need to come back out of the vault. 

But Fernwood came off as a bit too cutesy. I then considered Willowbrook, a town that not only gets mentioned in passing but features in a short story about a burglar dressed as Santa getting all Grinch on a trailer park on Christmas Eve. In some ways, Willowbrook is based on Lodi, the far-flung exurb of Cleveland where I grew up. (Yes, we all got sick of WMMS playing Creedence's "Lodi" long after Creedence had faded from airplay. Boy, did we get sick of it. It was still playing when the Sex Pistols flamed out and Bruce Springsteen became the king of rock and roll.) And it doesn't really fit the mold for a fictionalized Glendale.

So...

Lift a town from a previous fictional work, one not named Fernwood. Well, Sherwood Anderson wrote about Winesburg, a town based on the very real Clyde, Ohio (which is now, apparently, a suburb of Monticello. Thanks, Sherwood!) Only...

For six months in 1991, I lived ten minutes from a town called Winesburg. In the heart of Ohio's Amish Country. Not quite what I was looking for. It started looking like an homage to another Ohio writer wouldn't work. 

Okay, what about history? Monticello's location in my fictional Ohio sits at the very edge of the historical Connecticut Western Reserve. If you've been to Cleveland or any of the surrounding towns and counties, you see Western Reserve plastered all over the place. It's one of those names like Northcoast that define the region. But I looked more toward Connecticut, which somehow managed to make Northeast Ohio part of the state early on. Virginia and Pennsylvania did that, too, but Pennsylvania borders Ohio, and West Virginia and Kentucky used to be part of Virginia.

A lot of towns in Ohio derive their names from towns in Connecticut. I could have gone with any of the New England states. There's a Boston Township near Cleveland, and settlers from Worcester, MA, came to north central Ohio and decided the English city that gave their hometown its name was spelled stupidly. So they spelled is Wooster. There are only two possible pronunciations. (Mind you, the 1800s was the golden age of simplified spelling.)

But I stuck with good old CT. I avoided Mystic. Too obvious and too close to Dennis Lehane's Mystic River (still my favorite crime novel ever.) But there's a Hartford. There's a Bridgeport. There's a Windsor. All in Ohio. Some are large towns. Others barely a speck on the map - a gas station, a church, and a scattering of houses all in a space shorter than my street in suburban Cincinnati.

One town in CT did not have a town in Ohio: Stoneport. So, in the Celloverse (Can I coin that, or do I need a fan base to do that for me?), settlers from Stoneport, CT came to the Monticello area in the early 1800s to found a town named for their point of origin. So, now I had a town name. Now I could get on with the business of one of Stoneport's uniformed officers finding a woman tied to the track at 3 AM with an Amtrack train bearing down on her.

What? That's not a thing?