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Steamship
December 5th, 2011, 10:49 PM
ONE:

I watch a snail slowly sliding, slithering across my window sill. I crouch so I’m eye level with the gastropoda and I watch its two beady eyes moving around as feelers touching air. Slowly it moves one long millimetre at a time, unaware of the giant watching over it.

I wonder how, what a snails thoughts would be like. Instinctual in moving its way forward, feeling its way for food. Then I think about my own conscious thoughts and how old was I when I became fully aware of thought and my own presence. As a baby they look and stare in amazement and fascination at the world around but ultimately they process no more than goldfish. Three seconds of wonder, turn and another look and wow it’s new and fun again. Slowly they build a memory, a library of thoughts to later convey and recall and at a whim. I wonder if babies can think as they stare, what language is it or is it a randomisation of shapes and colours?

I look at the snail moving its eyes at the window pane touching it, a transparent shield blocking it from my makeshift vegetable patch where I caught it eating my tomatoes. One snail, there’s probably more but I found this one snail to which I now act as its judge. Do I charge it with stealing, vandalism, destruction of private property?
I find it amusing that I liken getting rid of a snail to murder.
Either way I sentence the little gastropoda to death and in doing so, in my most sadistic of ways pour salt over it. I watch it bubble as the salt comes into contact with its slimy form slowly drawing all the water from its cells and dehydrating it, mummifying it essentially. As the bubbling and slow dissolving of the fiendish bastard who was wrecking my garden slowly fades, the mailman arrives with a handful of letters filling up the letterboxes of my apartments co-residence and my bored day filled with doldrums of actually being reduced to insecticide perks up with potential.

While it may be not a great thing to eagerly await mail, the idea itself is still romantically classic and with modern technology how long will it be before sending mail becomes redundant?
I walk passed my Royal typewriter with the words “Chapter One” heavy printed in black ink, the constant smashing of the keys over those ten letters still had not provided me with any thought towards actually writing any past that. Well it was either chapter one or prologue but seeing as I had not a thought yet a story, I figured a prologue would be a waste of time.

‘Electricity bill’
‘Gas Bill’
‘Phone Bill’
How can all of my bills arrive on the same day, each with a due date that happens to fall a day apart?
Four letters with three bills, the last was a strange one. A nice blue envelope that was too thin to hold anything more than a letter, I stared at it for awhile wondering who may have sent it. Ocean blue if a colour needed to be precise with an embossing around the edges that resembled lace, fancy lace. It looks to have come from a small town outside the urban concrete walls of the city. Perhaps a new suburbian paradise as it was foreign to me but then I don’t pay much attention to much outside the city, the postage stamp has it as local. I grabbed a letter opener shaped like a samurai sword and neatly slit the top open, inside was folded invitation.


---

Dear Mr Valentine

Your skills in your field of work are required to help with an unsolved mystery that currently surrounds our premises
---
With this situation we
Invite you to Vermilion Manor
To stay with us, all expenses included to assist with the investigation of the unsolved Mystery
---
Your presence is required as soon as is at your convenience
---
We look forward to your presence at Vermilion Manor

Kindest Regards

Richard Vermilion

---


Well, it was the right note to shake me from the sadistic doldrums of killing snails, snail to be more precise. Shake me out of the day’s apathy and onto my laptop to research the Vermilion Manor mystery.
I Google though articles dating back two years about a series of murders totalling four female bodies.
There’s mention of bones accidently being dug up, so skeletal remains probably equates to roughly four years ago that they may have been buried.
No physical evidence or the presence of it was passed onto the media nor anything that may help the case.
It was almost like a media blackout had occurred revealing only the bare minimum which in this day of instant news made for a peculiar thing.
Why though had an invite landed in my mailbox for my skills, what skills?
My work was merely that of a fiction writer.
A fiction writer who has short stories based on ridiculously heroic detectives.
I’m not even that well known, my only publishing achievement resides in a small magazine whose fan base resides in fanatics of the old forties serials of gumshoe sleuths and Dames with a case to be heard.
I’m attempting a full length novel and the most I have done is “Chapter One”, if it’s not completed within the few months I have left then I have to return my advance and continue as low level writer in a pulp magazine that pays enough for basics as long as I pump a story a week out.

I make myself a strong coffee and ponder over the eerie looking manor open on my laptop. The Addams family manor doesn’t quite fit the gloomy look of this place, historically enriched was a slogan to obviously take away from the haunted look.
I research the manor a little more ignoring the pages on the murders.
In doing so, I Google “Vermilion Manor –murders” and assume I skip past six or seven pages to where a public domain website has a brief abridged history.
I slowly peruse and I realise that the eerie building was built in the early 1800’s with three restorations that had taken place in 1901, 1966 and the most recent in 1997.
There doesn’t seem to be much more on the topic apart the seasonal rooms for rent as a bed and breakfast, certain dates of availability, occasional ghost tours and a brief history of the Vermilion family. Edgar Vermilion, the Manor’s builder and money maker that seems to have been kept the riches within the family. Bootlegging, slave trading, import and exporting and a family doctor, Edgar Vermilion is a man who looks to have little morals and every finger in every pie, I wonder if it runs in the family.

I open my desk drawer and look at the packet of cigarettes, I open the pack and count eight. Eight to last until my next pay check and I wonder when it may arrive. I think about cashing the advance of ten thousand but with two words, ten letters printed that it may be a little premature. I mutter ‘Hell with it’ and pull one out and light up. I inhale the fire’s smoke and breathe a slight sigh of relief and my head spins slightly.
I grab an empty coke can from the trash and use it as an ashtray.
As I flick the ash and wave the smoke away I hear the sounds of trudging foot steps outside the hallway, I quickly run to the window and open it to let out the smoke in case it was my hard ass landlady who herself was a smoker. Now she strongly advocates against it with her voice box that plugs into the hole in her throat and condemns anyone else who happens to light up within a two mile radius of her. I half hang out the window and notice another damned snail crawling over my tomatoes, I reside in an apartment three stories high with a makeshift vegetable garden that sits illegally on a fire escape. Three stories high and yet I still get snails. I pick the bastard up, condemned again to death and I drop it and listen to the faint crack as it lands on dumpster below, it slightly clings to the thick plastic lid before succumbing to the slanted top and it rolls onto the bitumen. I hear the faint coughing and spluttering of the iron lung walking off, her aversion and keen sense of smell to the finely rolled tobacco of my current enjoyment seems to have been overlooked and I look up thanking my lucky stars towards a God I have no belief in. Out of habit of society’s religious endeavours I still pick up its bad habits in thanking an unbelievable deity.
Being low on funds and stingy about everything I have, I smoke the cigarette until there is little more than the filter that is stained brown and wet. I flick it out onto the bitumen aiming for the broken snail and miss completely.

My stomach rumbles and I think about the canned spaghetti in the cupboard and my appetite suppresses, not because the thought of canned spaghetti is unappealing because its not, I just can’t be bothered warming it up on my stove. The dishes have to be done afterwards otherwise you get the hardened dried sauce that needs a miracle to scrape off and then drying afterwards. The more I think about it the more I realise that its not much work, I’m just in a bored lazy stupor.
I look again at the invitation and ponder the need for a pulp writer. I draw an audacious conclusion that maybe they want my literary skills as a writer to cover events and draw public sympathy as they are victims themselves, with some heinous monster out there using their land as a body dumpster. I think hard about this conclusion and it appeals to me as it could be a first novel which would make my publishers happy and the probability of being paid more from a second source to write it could be a win-win situation.
To diminish doubt and slight excitement in this flimsy conclusion I decide to call Richard Vermilion and inquire as to the invitation.
A quick search on the internet, the ever so helpful tool that eliminates the yellow pages directory even though they still send it out, and I’m dialling the number and waiting for a response.

‘Good Morning Vermilion Manor Bed and Breakfast’ a chirpy female voice answers and I casually reply ‘Hi, I’m Mr Valentine I received an invitation from Richard Vermilion. May I speak with him?’
‘I’ll put you through’ she says and the phone goes silent for a second before the radio starts playing in the background. I listen to the beats of some new techno dance song and it reaffirms my dislike for it. It’s a mixture of electronic clashes and a voice that distorts and repeats the same words that have no musical merit yet people still feel the need to promote it.
‘Mr Valentine, you received my invitation’ I feel the need to reply with an obvious “Duh” but my inner voice prohibits me from irking a man that may be willing to pay me for a potential exclusive.
‘Yes sir, I’m a little curious as to what it is’ I say.
‘To be honest Mr Valentine, this matter is something that I would like to discuss in person. Due to the nature of the matter it would be hard to explain in this current setting’ says Richard and this annoyed me. What situation cannot be explained on the phone? I asked myself this as the previous conclusion I had thought of became less likely.
‘I’m currently free if you would like me to come and see you?’ I say, it was nearly lunch and I’m hoping if I get there just before the clock strikes twelve they’ll put a meal on for me.
‘Pack a suitcase Mr Valentine’ was this an order? And why do I need to pack for a meeting. Perhaps at my convenience was really at his demand. I think about this carefully... free lodgings means free food and no canned spaghetti, no dishes and no landlady who makes the rare enjoyment of slow cancerous death feel like an Iranian interrogation.
‘How long should I pack for?’ I asked.
‘Seven days, while its expected you’ll stay longer our staff will make sure your cloths are cleaned and in necessary rotation’ says Richard.
‘Ill start packing, but I have no means of transportation’ Meaning I have no money for a cab and don’t own a car.
‘Ill send a car, you’ll have forty five minutes. I’ll be pleased to see you’ he says before a click and the humming of a dead line. I was excited, not sure why but this seemed adventurous.

I rummage through my closet and at the back covered in cobwebs is my suitcase, I pull it out carefully thinking there might be more than spiders hiding in there. There isn’t and I pull off all the clingy white webbing mess that’s probably has been there since I moved in.
I pull out my top dresser drawer and take a handful of briefs and socks and shove them messily into the front pocket of the suitcase.
Next I rifle through my lower drawer and pull out the only pair Jeans I own.
I take two tracksuit pants, four pairs of shorts, colours vary. I look through my t-shirt draw and realise that I need new clothing, I wonder if my Mother will send me new clothes.
I grab my only three t-shirts that don’t have holes in them, I look in my closet and take four shirts, colours vary.
I take my brown leather jacket that I somehow find beneath the couch covered up by scrunched up paper and magazines that date back a year cause I’m too poor to buy any new ones.
Lucky last, I rifle through my keys, some that I don’t even use anymore to find the small brass one that unlocks my bottom desk draw. One turn of the stock desk draw lock that a paperclip could open and I pull out my stash of Marijuana, I think about my lack of priorities in life, how I could afford to still by weed but lack the function to save for a new magazine. Oh shit, I open my desk drawer and pull out my packet of cigarettes. Seven left, but if I don’t have to pay for food where I’m going then I can afford to buy more. The luck for me is turning.

Offeiriad
December 5th, 2011, 11:55 PM
I look at a snail slowly crawling, walking or slithering across my window sill. Eye level with the crawling shelled slug and I watch its two beady eyes moving around as feelers touching air. Slowly it moves one slow millimetre at a time.

Crawling isn't the description I'd apply to the movement of a snail. Slithering, mainly. Sliding, perhaps. And the last sentence has one too many 'slows'. I think it's safe to assume we all know snails move slowly.


...but I found this one snail too which I now act as its judge.

to, not too


Do I charge it with stealing, vandalism, destruction of private property.

If you're asking a question, there should be a question mark at the end.

I find it amusing that you liken getting rid of a snail to murder.


I walk pass my Royal typewriter...

Passed.


...heavy printed it black ink...

In?


How does every bill that flows in, happen to arrive in my mailbox on the same day but each with there own due by date that happens to each fall a day apart.


This might sound a little better: How can all of my bills arrive on the same day, each with a due date that happens to fall a day apart?


Well, it was the right note to shake me from the sadistic doldrums of torturing snails, snail to be more precise. Shake me out of the day’s apathy and onto my laptop to research the Vermilion Manor Murders.

First, you killed a snail. Perhaps torturned to death? Or just killed. Second, there's no mention of a murder yet. Only a mystery that is unsolved. Though perhaps the character can begin by searching for Vermilion Manor and discover that there was a series of murders there.


Why though had an invite landed in my mailbox for my skills, my work was merely that of a fiction writer, one that has short stories of ridiculously heroic detectives published in a magazine whose fan base resides in fanatics of the old forties serials of gumshoes sleuths and Dames with a case to be heard.

Run-on sentence.


Don't capitalize manor all the time, unless it's Vermilion Manor.


I research the Manor a little more ignoring the pages on the Murders. In doing so I Google to page six where the first actual page relating to the Manor without the word “Bodies found”, how can there be so many pages on murders that have nothing revealing more than location.

Perhaps this is just a difference in searching methods, but if this were me, I would revise my search, not plod through existing search results. So in reality I would try 'Vermilion Manor -murders' because adding the minus tells the search engine (Google or otherwise) to show results without that word or phrase.



That's all I have for now because it's quittin' time.

Steamship
December 6th, 2011, 09:44 AM
Thanks for the advise, I rushed the first half a dozen chapters so this is helpful. Also I didn't know about the minus when using search engines so thanks for the tip.

Offeiriad
December 6th, 2011, 10:22 PM
Okay I have a bit of time so I will add more. None of what I'm pointing out means the story is bad, it's just an attempt to make it flow better.:tennis:


I open my desk draw and look at the packet of cigarettes...

Drawer. You're not the only person I've seen forget the 'er'. Not sure why that is. There are a few other places where it's missing as well.


I inhale the fires smoke...

Fire's


Out of habit of societies religious endeavours...

society's


Next I rifle through my Jeans, I own one pair of Jeans and wonder how they’ll rotate one pair, how’s it a pair when there’s only one?

Run-on sentence.

Over all the story idea is interesting. A writer called to solve a mystery rather than police or a detective.

Steamship
December 7th, 2011, 11:15 PM
Started revising Offeiriad, do you have anything else?
Also I enjoyed you're line regarding "liken getting rid of a snail to murder" do you mind if I use?

Offeiriad
December 7th, 2011, 11:17 PM
Sure thing! ;)

Steamship
December 8th, 2011, 11:16 AM
Have made some edits based on what you have picked up... anything else you can see before I post either the second chapter or an excerpt from another would be greatly appreciated.

Offeiriad
December 8th, 2011, 03:08 PM
I can read through it again and see if I find anything else. I know there were a few things in the second half that I didn't mention because I thought that would be going overboard.

Offeiriad
December 8th, 2011, 09:23 PM
Coke should be capitalized as it's a brand name.


My stomach rumbles and I think about the canned spaghetti in the cupboard and my appetite suppresses, not because the thought of canned spaghetti is unappealing because its not, I just can’t be bothered warming it up on my stove.

I wouldn't say that the laziness suppresses appetite; I would just say that the MC ignores the rumbles in his stomach because he can't be bothered to make the effort to heat up the canned spaghetti.


A quick search on the internet, the ever so helpful tool that eliminates the yellow pages directory even though they still send it out, and I’m dialling the number and waiting for a response.

Leave out the middle part. Everyone knows that you can find numbers online now. And dialing has only one L.



Clothes, not cloths

Jeans aren't capitalized


I look through my t-shirt draw and realise…

Missed a drawer here.



Mother doesn't need to be capitalized when preceded by 'my'


…small brass one that unlocks my bottom desk draw.

Missed another drawer.


One turn of the stock desk draw lock…

Another drawer here.


One turn of the stock desk draw lock that a paperclip could open and I pull out my stash of Marijuana, I think about my lack of priorities in life, how I could afford to still by weed but lack the function to save for a new magazine.

This sentence could be split in two; at least.

Steamship
December 8th, 2011, 11:31 PM
Thanks,

Go overboard, I actually like this as well as criticism to aspects of the story. How else do we improve?

Offeiriad
December 8th, 2011, 11:35 PM
Without having all of it, I can't say how to improve it more. Is this a completed work? If so, go through it and apply my advice where you can throughout. If not, apply it as you go along.

River Girl
December 10th, 2011, 04:02 AM
Steamship, I enjoy the descriptive writing style. It paints detailed images of the scene--the snail, landlady, and apartment, in particular--as well as the MC, which does a great job in drawing the reader in to the MC's home, personality, and lifestyle. I especially enjoyed the canned spaghetti dilemma, the decision to smoke one of the cigarettes, and searching for (and finding) the leather jacket. I've been in each of these situations and had the same thoughts, so it made me laugh. The actions and the MC's thought process are real and many people can relate to them in one way or another. This makes the MC very believable to the "everyman/woman" out there and starts to create a bond bewteen the reader and the MC. I found myself already rooting for him--the poor, struggling writing--to take the Vermillion job and make some money.

Great job so far! Offeririad covered the main grammatical issues. I noticed just a few main issues outside of his comments:

1. In one case, you used double quotation marks; all others, single quotation marks. In the U.S., we use double quotation marks (not sure if the rule is different where you are).

2. Remember to include a comma before the dialogue in quotation marks.

3. Separate dialogue from different speakers (or descriptive text) with a blank line in between (as below):

Ex. "Good Morning Vermilion Manor Bed and Breakfast," a chirpy female voice answers.

I casually reply, "Hi, I’m Mr Valentine. I received an invitation from Richard Vermilion. May I speak with him?"

"I’ll put you through," she says, and the phone goes silent for a second before the radio starts playing in the background.

I hope that helps! I look forward to your next chapter.

Steamship
December 11th, 2011, 01:24 AM
I've noticed a few things we do differently to the US (I'm Australian by the way) Including the usage of the letter U in our words. e.g. Favor as opposed to Favour, Color and Colour etc... there a few other things Grammar wise as well, so it's hard to pick sometimes.

River Girl
December 11th, 2011, 01:27 AM
Steamship--I left a reminder for you to add a comma before your quoted dialogue begins. But I just posted some of my chapters, and when posted some of my commas before dialogue vanished. Now I'm wondering if your original has commas in these areas, but they were missing in your post? If not, then I need to take a closer look at my original. Will you let me know if you notice anything like this in yours?:joyous: Thanks!

Steamship
December 11th, 2011, 09:40 AM
Ill have to look at my Original copies to see if it's done the same. Will finish reviewing chapter two tonight and hopefully will add tomorrow.

xanthreterra
December 12th, 2011, 01:03 AM
Why did you choose to use the term gastropoda? This uncommon word needs a reason to be included. It was rather jarring to see it included in the first line of your work.

Steamship
December 12th, 2011, 02:14 PM
I like the word, and know it's uncommon. The boredom the main character experiences causes him to use odd words when describing things and often does things that are considered strange simply because I do this when I'm bored. The whole character is not based on me but I've added a few quirks that are often pointed out to me as it makes it easier to write from what I know. These sort of oddities are throughout the novel I'm writing. They may be odd and when finished if they don't fit can easily be scrubbed out.

xanthreterra
December 12th, 2011, 10:15 PM
Actually, that is a very good reason, I find myself doing similar things at times. And after I thought about it a little, who better to know the scientific name for the snail family than a gardener? Perhaps it would improve your story to make these ideas more obvious to the reader.

Steamship
December 12th, 2011, 11:11 PM
Perhaps it would improve your story to make these ideas more obvious to the reader.

This is actually a topic I talk to a few friends about in relation to film and literature, at what point do you leave the reader/viewer to work things out for themselves without having to explain everything. Also I know it's one sentence, but isn't half the fun not understanding something and having to look it up (something I do, not sure if anyone else does).

xanthreterra
December 13th, 2011, 01:48 AM
Fair enough. If you had a reason and some thought going into it don't let me stop you, its your story. Also, I admit to enjoying the Wikipedia article on gastropods so I guess your idea is not without merit.

Misfit
December 18th, 2011, 02:39 AM
Interesting story, I am curious as to where it is going. You said you were going to post a second chapter, anytime soon?

Steamship
January 22nd, 2012, 06:10 AM
I was going to post a 2nd chapter but will instead post another piece of work, a chapter from a fantasy piece i'm working on, Aidos the infinite.

Steamship
January 28th, 2012, 12:53 PM
I changed my mind again, I've not gone through looking for mistakes but ill assume there are plenty. Here is the second chapter.


A town car arrived in forty seven minutes and a fifty seven minutes turnaround with a quick stop at the supermarket for more smokes, I arrive at the gates to Vermilion Manor. A stone cut driveway lined with pines as far as the eye can see curves around as we slowly embark toward hedge gardens and sprawling fields of green grass that look to go on forever. The manor itself is a glimmer in the distance and is far beyond anything seen on the internet. It looks as long as it does wide.
We pass what’s either a large red brick garage on the way through or it’s what I can only assume was an old greenhouse.
Tall brick work with a glass roof that has probably never been cleaned. It’s murky top and rundown exterior sends my thoughts into an overdrive as I wonder what lies inside. The eight... no nine as I count them, large padlocks that line the centre doors with thick braces only makes me more curious as to what could be hidden in there.
As I approach the Manor itself I see Cherry blossom trees on each side of the fields from the driveway.
Next to them are large oblong stones and I can only assume that is where the bodies were discovered and I’m curious as to why they kept the marked graves.
We drive up to the front entrance where we park amongst a few town cars. The chauffer opens my door and I eagerly get out. I watch him as he takes my luggage into the manor.
A man dressed in a neat suit that looks expensive as it shimmers in the sun waits with his arms folded on the first step of many towards the main foyer. A woman sitting on a limestone garden wall, dressed in a sunflower dress with a wide brimmed evening hat polishes her nails as she crosses her legs.
It’s strange but all of this seems set up, faked as if it is something written in my pulp stories.
‘Welcome Mr Valentine, I am Richard Vermilion’ he extends his hand and I shake it cautiously, it’s an awfully familiar situation and I give Richard strange look suggesting this, he clearly notices and clears his throat.
‘Please forgive me Mr Valentine, but this scenario, me, the woman I felt compelled’ Richard chortled with a restrained snort at the end.
‘Can I go now?’ whined the woman, she sighed and stood up. Richard nodded as she solemnly trudged off up the stairs and into the manor.
Richard was still smiling and seemingly waiting for a response.
‘It’s familiar but I can’t pick it’ I say
‘The Dame in the Sunflower Dress’ says Richard
Like lightning, it penetrated through every facet and I smiled understanding the set up. My third story about a Dame in a sunflower dress who sets up her husband for a, damn... I can’t remember. A story a week and you kinda forget the details about previous stories.
‘I remember every detail of your stories’ says Richard, challenging my thoughts.
‘You read my stories?’ I asked and it all started to fall into place.
‘God yes, your stories are the only reason why I still subscribe to Gumshoe’ says Richard.
‘The Dame in the Sunflower dress, top ten. Easily’
‘Thanks’ I say not sure whether to be flattered or feel pity for the guy.
‘I’m a fan of all the early century detective stories, there so gritty and heroic’ he started sounding more like a fanboy than the dignified man I spoke to earlier.
‘Then there is The Fredrick case files and the Evergreen Mystery...’ I put my hand up to stop him, the idea of him reciting every story title he likes feels like something that could take all day and my eagerness to find out why I’m here is becoming too suspenseful.
‘Please, I’m eager to find out why I’m here’ I say.
‘Sorry Mr Valentine I’m sure you get this all the time’.
I don’t but it’s not something I’ll admit too.
‘Valentine, Mr is not necessary’ I say
‘Please follow me, my office is this way’ I follow Richard and we pass to the right of the foyer, I walk slowly to look inside and the classic interior has the smell of varnished wood.
Walking to Richard’s office I pick up other smells, a faint sea breeze and honey, an odd combination.
Richard opens a sliding door to a room that has been converted into an office. The inside is more modern than the rest of the premises and has a more Art Decor style about it.
‘Please sit’ he says and I find myself rested in a white plastic tub chair that is remarkably comfortable. I look around at the different restoration photos that line the office walls and take into account that there are no family photos in here, just a variation of the manor itself and beneath each photo are model replicas of old classic cars dating back to the early eras of automobiles.
‘So, why am I here?’ I ask again, it feels as if getting this question answered might be a mystery itself.
‘As you might be aware there were a series of grisly murders found here nearly two years ago’ says Richard, I nodded and he continued ‘what you don’t know is the bizarre nature of the murders, four women relatively of the same age found in different parts of the Manor’s estate’
‘How were they found?’ I asked curiously ‘as they are so far apart?’
‘Well, one of our Gardeners was planting a Blossom tree, as he was digging he caught a bone, thinking it was limestone or rocks he dug around it to reveal more that he was hoping for. We called the police and an investigation was sub sequentially launched. The reason all the bodies were found we’re because the young girl was missing her head, they dug further down but nothing was found so the police bought in Cadaver sniffer dogs, after a day searching the grounds, three other locations were marked. Throughout the night three more bodies were found in several states of decomposition but oddly, none of them having a head’. I pulled a face that probably resembled sucking a lemon, cringe worthy as the thought itself was chilling.
‘So I’m here to write about the mystery?’ I asked puzzled.
‘Yes, but not quite, after two years the police have found few things except what I perceive as planted evidence. Not by the police but by the culprit, it leads to an unfortunate frame of which I will explain soon. I was rather disappointed with their investigation, it seemed rather lacklustre and to my further annoyance I spent a small fortune keeping it out of the media so as to not hinder their investigation. So I asked you here as I want you to do your own investigation’ says Richard.
I burst into a laugh, it was unintended and spontaneous but the idea was ridiculous.
‘If the police couldn’t catch a killer or a clue then what chance does an amateur writer have’ I say.
‘Very little, but you write mystery and very well so yes in a way I want you to write this as you go along looking into the crime. I have a copy of the police reports and photos. They will be at the group’s discretion’ says Richard.
Groups, as in more than one.
‘You have more than one writer?’ I asked
‘No, you are the only writer. I have a small assortment of people here, you are to help each other with your expertise in solving this’ says Richard.
Scooby-doo, the only thing I could think off was Scooby-frigging-doo. A group solving a crime, I wonder who shaggy is because I’ve always been the Shaggy type only I don’t own a damned horse-Dog. Especially the variety of horse-dog that gets stoned and eats a King’s ransom in food. Then my interest perked up a little and I pondered if this is like Scooby-doo then there might be a Daphne to get closer too.
‘So this assortment, what working skills do they have?’ I asked.
‘Ah, we’ll meet the group in a few minutes but first there are a few legal bindings to take care off’ says Richard.
He pulls out a non disclosure form stating that during any investigation that shall proceed, any contact with the media or any affiliation is prohibited. If this is breached so is the contract etcetera and it goes on pretty much stating that the Vermilion name needs to be protected.
I pretend to read it all but I skim through until I read the addenda. Should this matter be resolved publishing rights towards the author will seek approval of the Vermilion estate in draft and final copy. So no bad mouthing the Vermilion’s then. I peruse further down the addenda and I received what can only be described as a killer erection as I read the words “An authorised reward of One hundred thousand dollars should this case be resolved”.
‘There’s a hundred thousand g’s if we solve this?’ I ask, my voice breaks and I sound ridiculous asking in that tone but I clear my throat and stare blankly at Richard.
‘If this matter is concluded sufficiently and without damage to reputation then all parties involved will be rewarded that sum in addition to all expenses here’ says Richard.
I thought hard and while the Vermilion’s had more cash than could be counted this seemed all too surreal and there had to be some catch along the way.
‘You think there’s a catch Mr Valentine’ and he reads my mind again, I really need to tone down my expressions.
‘Well yeah, don’t get me wrong solving a case that has the police turning up nothing seems unlikely there really feels like there should be something more’ I say
‘You and the rest of the group have three weeks. As I previously mentioned, there seems to be convenient evidence that makes me assume a frame job. I have it on good authority that in three weeks the prime suspect will be arrested and the circumstantial evidence will be used against him, in addition all the details relating to the crime will be released to the media and I cannot buy them off this time. He will be tried by the media before he sets foot in a courtroom’ says Richard.
‘Who’s the prime suspect?’
‘Richard Vermillion the Second’ I like how the word Junior isn’t used, “The Second” as if it is to carry prestige.
‘Your son’ I say with a fake surprise look, its faked because I don’t care, if the cops named him the prime suspect its probably because he’s a twisted son of a bitch who killed and beheaded four women.
‘If it’s that serious why don’t you hire professionals investigators?’ I ask.
‘I did, several. But they seemed more interested in cash flow than any real investigating. Of the four most recommended, two showed up and asked questions, looked around the yard and took photos. One sent his teenage son to gather information and each time I heard from them it was for more cash for more clues but I ended up with close to what the Police found. That brings me to the forth, he was how I ended up with a copy of the police files, that alone cost the amount I paid the other three combined’ says Richard, his tone was hostile when talking about wasting money on little results. I assume they came to a similar conclusion about the son and tried to squeeze as much as they could before he was found guilty.
‘I’m sorry but I find it hard to fathom a group as you suggested doing much more’ I say. He looks at me and sighs.
‘It’s a last resort. A suggestion was made that I hire a group of individuals who’s perspectives will disparate those who haven’t found anything’ he says. I shrug.
‘Please Mr Valentine, come and meet your fellow guests’

We walk into the main foyer and damned if I’m not impressed, the entire front foyer roof is a mosaic of stained glass telling a story of what looks like fairies and goblins. I look at the staircases that spiral each side of the room to a large hallway and marble floors that are polished to within such a reflection I can see my nose hairs.
‘This way’ says Richard guiding me to a lounge bar where a group of people are sitting around a hand carved oak table with the Vermilion crest as the tables centre piece. Each chair or couch comfortably resting the guests is red leather that looks like it belongs to a gentlemen’s club.
‘Drink sir’
The barman offers me a drink from behind the bar, I look at the fine selection of spirits and the two on tap brews, neither appealed to me as I wasn’t in the mood for beer.
‘Tequila, big boy glass with at least three limes sitting in the glass’ I turned and smiled at Richard who in turn smiled at me.
‘Please welcome our last addition to this group... Mr Valentine’ says Richard.
‘Valentine, there is no Mister’
The Blonde applying a dark shade of red nail polish looks up with a snigger and says ‘your name’s Valentine?’
‘Yes, like the hallmark holiday’
‘Very queer’ says a fat bastard with a moustache that doesn’t turn around to look at me but keeps reading through the case file.
I’m tempted to retort with something clever and insulting but I bite my lip as I’m gonna be with these people for the next few weeks and a poor first impression may not be seen as the best way to make new friends, even if the others don’t feel that way.
‘Hmm, well’ Richard looks unimpressed with the snarky remarks towards me but continues with his introduction.
‘The Gentleman here’ he refers to the obnoxious fat man whose attire is that of a white and red Cuban shirt with beige cargo shorts and sandals. His chunky leg is rested on the other as it jiggles up and down, a twitch perhaps that if I stare at long enough will become annoying.
‘This a Francis Benedict, he’s currently an off duty city homicide detective who knows his way around, well this kind of investigation’ he moves on to the next person, an elegant man in a striped grey and maroon suit with a blue Persian cravat, he flicks through a deck of playing cards turning up the ace of spades with every flick of the wrist.
‘This is Hugo Helliar, also known as Hellraiser Hugo’ I looked stumped, not because I was, I knew exactly who he was. I wanted to allow himself to tell me. Ego is a precious thing and the moment someone like Hugo realises that there is someone out there who hasn’t heard his name... they tell you everything to impress you.
‘I am a Magician, a master Illusionist. You have really not heard of me’ his accent sounded European and his pencil moustache moved in a funny manner with his lip, perhaps a twitch of distain at my lack of knowledge towards knowing of him. I shrugged and gave a sympathetic look.
‘Uh... to continue’.
He extends his hand towards the Blonde who blows on the wet polish.
‘This is Hugo’s assistant, Carmen’ clearly not impressed by her attendance here Richard moves on quickly to the last member of this mystery gang.
‘Please meet Floyd Zsaz’ says Richard. He stops his introduction at his name and holds his hands clasped together in front of him. He’s waiting for Floyd to speak and there is an awkward tension in the room as all eyes turn to Floyd. An athletically build man with tattoos that come down each arm and piercings in his eyebrows, ears, nose and bottom lip. He looked like he has just come from a Sex Pistols concert and gives Richard a look that almost dares Richard to reveal his profession.
‘You’re a crook, a conman’ I say, the ice breaker.
‘A Grifter, Conman and Crook’ says Francis.
Floyd smiles a mischievous grin flashing a perfect white smile and speaks with a surprisingly perfect gentlemen English accent, very posh.
‘I am a Con-artist and how did you know?’ he asks surprised.
‘The tattoo of the two faced devil on your right wrist, when I was researching a story I found it a common trait with all men in your field of work, a distinguishing mark to identify yourself among other con-artists’ I say.
‘There’s no art in what you do’ says Francis.
‘I disagree, to pull of a perfect job is merited in artistic ability. Everything from setting up a scenario and acting out the Con and executing the getaway before anyone has realised’ says Floyd.
‘Yeah but your not good at it are you?’ chuckled Francis ‘Otherwise you wouldn’t be here as a consultant’.
‘I like to think it’s because I am quite good at it as too why I’m used as a consultant’ says Floyd.
This isn’t going to be a get along strong group, I look at Floyd and see him tapping his right index and middle three times on his knee, it’s a slight movement perhaps a tell. Floyd’s uneasy last statement unfortunately forces words out from my mouth, I try to restrain myself but lack of discipline in blurting out the wrong thing overwhelms me.
‘If your really that good then no one should have heard of you, anonymity is the sign of a good conman’ it echoed in my head and instantly the first thought is why piss of the one guy who looks like he could shank you without a thought. The rest of the group including the ditzy blonde found this statement funny and the scowl towards me made from Floyd made me unintentionally gulp, choke and cough into a fit that fortunately took the attention off him and squarely on me.
The Barman brings my drink and I take large gulp of tequila that burns like a jalapeño on mouth sore but takes away the itch in my throat. My eyes water from coughing too hard and I wipe them with my thumb and finger.
When the blurry vision subsides Richard hands me the file that everyone except the ditzy blonde and her Illusionist Master are reading.
‘Lunch?’ I asked
‘Oh, Lunch has been served already but please see our kitchen staff and they will make you something’ says Richard.
I raise my glass in appreciation and take another look at the motley crew of hand picked investigators who apart from one has no investigative experience.