Monday, December 3, 2012

Bad Analogies Written by High School Students

I saw this on Failblog today and couldn't help but repost it.  I don't know that they are real, but they ARE funny. Enjoy!

How Do I Analogy?

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Urban Witch, the Mage, and the Imp

This is my take on a challenge with the same name as the post title.


I stepped aside as a particularly smelly clump of something flowed past my feet.  I didn’t bother to cover my nose.  I had been visiting the Cleveland sewers long enough that their unique blend of aromas no longer triggered my gag reflex.  That said, I still didn’t want to be cleaning crap out of the laces of my boots if I could avoid it.

Why visit the sewers at all, you ask?  Believe it or not, the sewers are a great source of spell materials.

Now don’t go getting the wrong idea. There is a stereotype of female practitioners that says we keep jars of disgusting things like eye of newt and tongue of frog on dusty, cobwebbed shelves.  That we combine these nasty ingredients in waist high cauldrons and mutter silly rhymes under a full moon all while cackling maniacally.  That’s one hundred percent bullpucky.  I’ve never uttered a silly rhyme in my life (Dr. Seuss doesn’t count as he’s “literature”), and I’ve never even seen a real cauldron.  I do have jars of things on a shelf, but those jars are all filled with herbs (that I mostly use for cooking) and the shelf is immaculate as I wage an almost obsessive war against dust in my house. (I am winning, but the dust is persistent.)  What, then, was I hunting in the sewers if it wasn’t eye of newt?

Lost items.

Seriously.  I mean it.  There is true power in something that has been lost.  Power I can draw on to fuel my magic.  The same cannot be said for something intentionally thrown away.  When a person disposes of something, they sever any emotional attachment they may have to the object.  It becomes worthless to them, and therefore it is worthless to me.  A lost object is different.  In many instances, emotional attachment to lost objects are intensified.  A person spends a lot of energy in worrying over and searching for something they have lost--especially if that item is dear to them.  Since the object is the focus of the emotion, it becomes the repository of the expended energy.  This translates into power I can use.  Something like a child’s toy provides a very limited supply of such energy; children often forget the item quickly, making their use a fickle thing.  Items of great sentimental value, however, that are dear to multiple persons--such as a wedding ring--can be virtual dynamos, providing large amounts of power for years.

Unethical practitioners have been know to steal such items.  I’m just not into that.  Taking the items in such a way has a negative effect on your magic.  The willingness to cause someone emotional distress or pain in order to strengthen your power is the true essence of black magic, and I want nothing to do with that.  So, I spend some of my free time walking Cleveland’s beaches or parks with a metal detector, or like I was doing that day, traipsing through the sewers in search of lost treasure.

I had reached a junction where the drain line I was following merged with another when I saw movement in the passage up ahead.  I shone my flashlight in that direction.  Rats and other vermin weren’t uncommon down here.  I had seen my fair share, and most of them scurried away when the light beam hit them in the eyes.

This wasn’t a rat.  It resembled a large opossum, but something about it was off.  I couldn’t decide if it was the thing’s proportions, or the fact that its eyes reflected the light back with a red tint rather than the typical yellow.  I was on the verge of shouting at it to get it to move away when my nose started itching.

Let me stop here to tell you about my nose.  My nose is nothing out of the ordinary, at least not in any physical sense.  It’s not too big and not too small, in fact I think it fits my face rather nicely.  I don’t have some supernatural ability to perceive or identify odors, but my nose does have a nifty quality that serves me well.  Around active magic, my nose itches.  Not some tiny little “scratch and forget about it” itch.  We’re talking a monster “scratch it raw and the freaking thing is still there” itch.  This itch hit me square on the schnoz as I looked at the opossum thing.

Now, the sewer is not some place I expected to encounter random magical effects.  Had we been in a hospital or meat plant, somewhere where life or death occurred regularly, this wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary.  But in the sewer?  Something was up.

I did the only logical thing.  I opened my third eye.

Some people call it “the sight” or “the inner eye.”  Regardless of its name, the third eye allows you to perceive magical energies.  Every practitioner opens their third eye in a way that’s unique to them.  For me it involves squinting my eyes tight and then rubbing the spot between my eyebrows.  No it’s not elegant, but it works for me.  Can YOU do it?  I didn’t think so.

I gave the creature a second look.  It was actually harder to see this way.  A large cloud of gray energy swirled around the thing, obscuring its form.  The energy wasn’t anchored in the physical world and I didn’t see the telltale thread that indicated its source was the astral plane.  That meant the creature was generating it itself.  I regarded the spell more closely.  It was a complex piece of magic, woven with a certain amount of skill.  If the creature could do this, it was intelligent.  I closed my third eye and addressed the thing.

“You can drop the cloak.  I don’t know what you are, but you aren’t an opossum.”

It regarded me for a moment and sighed.  An actual audible sigh.  Then it raised up on its hind legs and made a gesture with its right paw.  There was a blur, and the cloak fell revealing the thing’s true form.

It was large, about the size and shape of an opossum--which was probably why it had chosen that form for its disguise--only twice as ugly.  Its face was vaguely human shaped, but the mouth elongated into a short muzzle with needlelike teeth.  Its ears were paper thin and pointed with small tufts of hair sprouting from the tops.  Its body was covered in rough, black fur, save for its hands and feet which appeared surprisingly dainty and delicate, until you noticed the wicked cat claws at the end of each finger and toe.  Its tale was rat like, mostly bare with hairs here and there along its two foot length. Its most noticeable feature, however, were the pair of leathery wings that extended from its back.  As I watched, it folded the wings around its shoulders like a cloak, a move that made it seem self-conscious.

“You won’t turn me in, will you?” it asked.  Its voice was surprisingly deep for coming from such a small body.

“Excuse me?”

It began wringing its hands. “He’ll be here for me soon.  You won’t let him take me back, will you?  You’ll protect me?”  It moved toward me.

I held up my right hand, palm out, and gathered a small amount of energy there.  The creature stopped immediately.

“Hold it, furball.  I don’t even know what you are, let alone what you’re talking about.”

“He’s an imp, and he’s in an amazing amount of trouble.”

The voice had a cultured British accent, vaguely reminiscent of Hugh Grant, and it was coming from further down the tunnel.  I aimed the flashlight that direction.  A thin man in a suit was walking my direction.  He held up a hand to keep the flashlight beam from hitting him in the eyes.

“Now, there’s no need for that,” he said. “Let’s make this a bit easier on everyone.”

He moved his hand in a complex little gesture, and then flipped his fingers forward as if he were tossing a frisbee.  A small ball of light arched away from his hand and took position at the apex of the sewer pipe.  It brightened as it hovered, until the entire area was pleasantly lit in a warm light.  My nose itched.

“Ah that’s much better,” the man said. “So much easier to carry on polite conversation when one can see the person with whom one converses.”

I gave the guy the once over.  The suit that I had only glimpsed in the beam of my flashlight, was of the three piece variety, obviously tailored and much more expensive than I expected of one wandering in the sewers.  The man himself was rail thin and young, maybe in his mid-twenties.  His face was chiseled, all angles and planes, and he wore a well-trimmed goatee.  His hair and beard were a light brown, as were his eyes.  He smiled, but the stiff way he held his head, tilted back slightly so he could look down his nose at me (though he was slightly shorter than my five foot eight) gave the expression a haughty cast.  He held a gentleman’s cane in his left hand, and as he stepped within ten feet of me I recognized the silver ring with the pentacle embossed on its face that he wore on his left index finger.

As my acquaintances in England would say: Bloody hell.

The man was a Mage.  Yes, that’s Mage with a capital “M.”  Practitioners of magic go by many different names.  Generally those names represent a particular magical tradition.  For example, shamans tend to use ancient tribal methods in their magic, chants and vision quests and the like.  Alchemists are concerned with changing one substance into another.  Witches, of which (no pun intended) I am one, are generally descendants of the celtic druidic tradition.  Any practitioner could rightly be called a magician, or mage, as that term refers to one who practices magic, rather than a particular tradition.  With one exception.

Mage, with the capital “M,” is the title that a very elitist group of European practitioners use to describe members of their “club,”  the Magisterium. I call it a club because in most ways the group resembles the stereotypical gentlemen’s club of the late 19th century: in order to get in you have to be from the right social circles, you have to be male, and you have to be filthy rich.  They were infamously conceited, looking down on less “refined” practitioners.  They also had the reputation of being highly skilled, but as I had never before met one, I couldn’t verify either claim.  Regardless, I wasn’t about to let this guy get any closer to me before I could figure out what was going on.

“Stop,” I said, my hand still held out.  I let the energy there pulse in warning. The man took another step, then stopped.  He looked me up and down, appraising me as if he were judging a dog competition.  His eyes narrowed and a smile touched his lips.

“Ah.  You found yourself a witch, Eglund.  How very droll.”

The way he said witch made it sound like a dirty word.  Mages conceited.  Check.  All thoughts of civility in my head went on sudden strike, giving my snark free reign.

“What do you want, Mage?” I practically spat the capital “M” word.  Hey, Mage is a four letter word, so I made it sound like one.

He drew himself up to his full height and sighted me down the length of his nose.  “I am William Silverlight of the Magisterium, and I will not be spoken to in that manner, witch.”

“I’ll speak to you however I want, Willie.  This is my sewer, in my town, and you’re the trespasser.  So either you tell me what you want or you get your bloody arse off my turf.”  I don’t usually say “bloody arse” but seeing as how he appeared to be British I thought it appropriate.

He blinked a few time, clearly unused to people talking back to him.  Then he sniffed.

“Anyone who claims a sewer as their ‘turf’ is welcome to it.  I will take my property and leave you to your odors.” He crooked a finger at the imp. “Come along, Eglund, before the stench of this place seeps too deeply into my pores and I begin to smell like her.”

The imp threw me an imploring glance.  All I knew about imps came from folklore.  They were fairy creatures, notorious pranksters, and generally considered pests.  Some people viewed them as evil.  I should have just let the Mage take the thing and wash my hands of the matter, but Eglund looked so...mortified.  And the Mage had insulted my sewer.

Through connections long ago made with the city I drew power into me.

“Sorry, Willie, but Eglund is under my protection.”

“Excuse me?”

“He asked for my protection.  I’m giving it to him.  Now leave, before things get ugly.”

Real anger flashed across the Mage’s features.  “Listen you whore,” he spat, all semblance of civility gone, “I will take what I wish, when I wish it, and no urban witch is going to stop me.”

He raised his cane, pointed it at me, and spoke a phrase in what sounded like Latin.  Lightning, sharp and quick, lanced across the space between us.  I had my shielding charm at the ready.  It caught the incoming energy and grounded it harmlessly into the earth, but I felt the magical bindings tying the charm together unravel at the strength of the attack.  I was defenseless should he strike again.

Mages highly skilled.  Check.

What was I supposed to do?  Combat magic is not my forte.  I’m a witch, not a sorceress.  My strength lies with the land.

Willie seemed to sense my hesitation.  “What’s the matter, witch?  Never felt power of this magnitude before?”  He sneered, his lips curled in derision. “Release your feeble reserve of power now before I end your miserable excuse for an existence this instant.”

I held up my hands and let the energy I held release slowly back into the earth.  The Mage chuckled.

“You finally show sense, whore, a decision which has saved your life.  It does not, however, exempt you from punishment for defying me.  Kneel and receive your retribution.”

Eglund cringed, hiding his head beneath his wings.  Evidently he had felt Willie’s retribution before.

“I don’t think so.”

“What?” Willie reddened and his anger momentarily stole his voice.  I imagined I could see actual smoke coming from his ears.

“I may not be skilled in pretty light shows,” I said, my voice hardening with each word, “but that does NOT mean that I am powerless.  Witness true power, Willie.”

When I had released my magic I had Called.  Nature answered.

The water at Willie’s feet erupted as a mass of silt, mud, and refuse surged upward between the two of us.  It solidified into a vaguely human shape, but much more fluid.  It reached for the mage, its arm simply elongating as its hand shot for his head.

Willie responded with a high pitched squeal and a quickly muttered spell.  Fire leapt from his cane, destroying the hand and scattering bits of muck into the air.  More than a little rained down on his pristine suit.  The sewer spirit gurgled in rage, a new hand forming on its arm.

“You disgusting creature!” Willie howled. “I shall end you, and then you will get yours, witch.”  He raised his arms and gathered energy.

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” I replied, my voice calm amazingly calm. “You may defeat the spirit before you, but I doubt you’ll have time to do much more than scream before his friends at your back have their vengeance.”

Willie whirled about, just then noticing the other two spirits my spell had summoned.  One was formed of leaves, trash, and other assorted detritus spinning in a miniature cyclone in the air.  Glowing orange lights that could only be eyes focused intently on the Mage.  The other was human in form.  It wore the clothing of a nineteenth century dock laborer and held a spectral chain as big around as my wrist in one hand, a large gaff in the other.  It waved the gaff back and forth in a menacing fashion.

Willie swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. “Perhaps I was a bit hasty,” he said, his voice a notch higher that it had been previously.

My mind swirled with a multitude of nasty insults, but I kept the conversion civil.  Mostly.

“Listen, prick.  You are going to release whatever hold you have on this imp, and then you’re going to get your sorry butt out of my town before my friends here decide you’re better off as a smear on the side of this sewer wall.  You have until the count of three.  One.”

“Don’t you think we could talk this through?”


“Be reasonable.”

I raised my hand.  “Thr...”

“All right, all right!” He gestured at the imp. “You are released from my service and hereby remanded into the custody of this witch.”  Then his eyes turned to me. “Enjoy your victory, witch.  You’ve earned it.”  He twisted his Magisterium ring, and with a flash of light he was gone.

I took a deep breath and let the tension I was feeling flow out with the exhaled air.  It had worked.  I had won.  The Mage’s light had disappeared when he did, so I held up my flashlight.

I turned my attention back to the three spirits that had answered my call for help. I had spent a great deal of time cultivating relationships with the denizens of the spirit world around town.  It was nice to see that my hard work had paid dividends.   “Thank you,” I said, bowing deeply to them. “You honor me with your assistance.  Return to your demesnes with my gratitude.”

Each acknowledged me in its own way, and then departed.  I played the flashlight beam across the sewer and found the imp, once again crouched against the sewer wall.  The fact that he was still present surprised me.

“Eglund.  You’re still here.  I would have thought you headed home.”

He shook his head. “Would that I could, mistress.”

Mistress? “What are you talking about?”

He eyed me with arched brows. “Do you really not know?”

“Know what?”

“I am still bound.  The mage released me from his service, it is true, but he did not undo my bond.  He simply transferred it to another.”

“What in the world are you....”  Realization hit me.  The mage’s words: “remand you into the custody of this witch” took on new meaning.

“I don’t suppose you know how to break a mage binding,” the imp said.

“Uhm, that would be a no.”

“Then I guess you’re stuck with me.”

A gleam came into the Eglunds’s eyes then, and I recalled again what I knew about imps: notorious pranksters, and generally considered pests.

“How long is this binding going to last?” I asked.

“How long do you think that pompous twit is going to live?” Eglund responded.

I grunted. What was I going to do now? I hadn’t the slightest bit of knowledge what was involved in a mage bond.  Well, I wasn’t going to solve anything simply standing around in the sewer.

“Come on,” I told Eglund, “let’s go back to my place and see if there’s something that can be done.”

I headed toward the manhole I used as an access point.  I noticed that Eglund wasn’t following me.

“Well come on.  What are you waiting for?”

He looked at me sheepishly. “Would you mind carrying me?  The sewer water is so unsanitary.  My fur will stink for weeks.”

“You can fly.”

“But the tunnel is so narrow.  What if I scrape my wings on a sharp stone?”

I was starting to get angry.  “Get over here now.”

“Is that an order, mistress?”

I gritted my teeth. The sludge near the imp’s feet began to bubble.  He shrieked and took to the air.

“No need to get violent,” he said as he flew to hover over me.  Water from his feet dripped on my head.  I cursed under my breath and wiped filth from my eyes.

I stalked off down the sewer, trying to reign in my temper.  Eglund kept pace in the air above me, chattering incessantly.  “Do you have food at your place?  I’m starving.”

If I ever saw him again that bloody mage was a dead man.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This is from a group challenge.  The challenge was "Discovery" and this is what I came up with.  I thought it fitting to post after Kate hijacked the blog last week - after all, she's the defendant in the case. :)


Transcript of the testimony of K. M. Collins, Ph.D.
Date: 12-15-2011
Discovery for Case: PATEA vs. Collins
In the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County in and for the State of Maryland
People Against Laboratory Experimentation on Animals, Plaintiff   vs.   K. M. Collins, Ph.D., Defendant
Case #: 02-C-11-092573 MT
Pursuant to notice, the Deposition of K. M. Collins was taken on December 15,  2011, commencing at 2:33 p.m. at the offices of Scarpelli and Hines, 3234 Richie Highway, Suite 114, Glen Burnie, MD, before Ronald G. Marshall, a CSR, RPR, and Notary Public.

On behalf of the Plaintiff:
Linda J. Crenshaw, Esquire
5329 Alexander Circle
Frederick, MD 21702

On behalf of the Defendant:
Anthony Scarpelli, Esquire
3234 Richie Highway, Suite 114
Glen Burnie, MD 21060

It is hereby stipulated and agreed that the reading and signing of this deposition are waived.  Dr. Collins duly  sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, testifies as follows:

Examination by Ms. Crenshaw:

Q:  I'm going to ask you a series of questions and you just need to respond to the best of your knowledge,  Dr. Collins.  Since this is being recorded, a verbal response is necessary. Is that clear?

A: Yes.

Q: Good. Would you please state your name for the record?

A: K. M. Collins, Ph.D.

Q: And you are aware that the People Against Laboratory Experimentation on Animals is suing you for  wrongful death of one of their members, Karin Levy, on February 12, 2011?

A: Yes.

Q: Where do you work, Dr. Collins?

A: The University of Maryland.  College Park.

Q: And how are you employed there?

A: I'm an Associate Professor of Physics.

Q: You do research?

A: Yes, and teach.

Q: How many research projects are you currently involved in at the University?

A: I only have one active research project.

Q: Who funds the project?

A: The Laue Institute for Quantum Physics

Q: And what is the nature of the research.

A: We're looking into the Copenhagen interpretation of the superposition of quantum states.

Q: Can you explain what that means?  I know this is a highly technical subject.  I would appreciate if you would use terms a lay person like myself could understand.

A: Quantum mechanics says that an object - such as a subatomic particle - can be in one of two quantum states.  Interestingly, the mathematics of quantum mechanics cannot determine which state the particle is in.  This has to be accomplished by observation.  The theory states that it is the actual observation of the particle that moves the particle - collapses it - into onestate or another.   Until the point of observation the particle exists in both states at once.

Q: Two different states at the same time?  That doesn't make sense.

A: You're right, it doesn't make logical sense from our everyday perspective, but the mathematics bear it out.  And remember, the key is, it is the observation that makes the particle move into a definite state.

Q: So how does this relate to your research?

A: In 1935, Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen discussed what they called quantum entanglement.  In essence, their article discussed what might happen when two quantum systems  interact.  When one quantum system collapses into a definite state their entanglement causes the second to collapse as well.

Q: I don't understand.

A: A lot of people don't understand right off.  To help with this, Erwin Schrödinger came up with an  illustration that is now classic.  It's a thought experiment that has come to be called Schrödinger's Cat.  It's like this: picture an enclosed room.  On the wall of the room is a radioactive source connected to a detector.  The detector is attached to a device that releases toxic gas into the air when it activates. The radioactive source gives off radiation periodically, so that in the course of an hour the chance that it  gives off the radiation or it doesn't are roughly the same.  If the detector senses radiation, it activates the device releasing the toxic gas into the room.  Over the course of the hour the radioactive source can be in one of  two  quantum states:  either it has given off the radiation, or it hasn't.  Are you with me so far?

Q: I think so.

A: In this room we've just described, Schrödinger adds another quantum object: a cat.  The cat's quantum state is obviously entangled with that of the radiation source.  If the source releases radiation, the toxic gas is released and the cat dies.  If no radiation is released, the gas remains contained and the cat lives.

Q: So the purpose of your experiment is to see whether or not the cat died?

A: No.  That would be too easy; just open the box and see if the cat is alive or not.  Our research is much more complicated.  Remember, mathematics show that both quantum states exist at the same time, they are in "superposition", meaning the source both has and has not released radiation.  Since the cat's state is entangled with the state of the  source, within the closed system of the box the cat is both alive and dead at the same time.

Q: That's impossible.

Scarpelli: That's not a question.

Q: All right.  I'll assume the science you describe is correct.  So what exactly are you trying to prove?

A: As I've said before, one theory, called the "Copenhagen interpretation," posits that it is the observation of the state that causes the superposition to collapse into one state or the other.  Our research was to design an experiment where we could determine what it is that does the observation in the Schrödinger's Cat scenario.  Is it the detector?  Is it the cat?  Both are within the system and are entangled with the radiation source, so does their observation matter?  Or is it the person who opens the box?

Q: And where were you in the research?

A: We thought we had devised a way to isolate the various observations for testing.  We prepared a suitable "box," obtained the cat, set up the parameters.  We were in the middle of the first test when the girl broke into the lab in her misguided attempt to rescue the cat.

Q: So when the deceased broke into the lab to free the cat there was a container of toxic gas present in the room?

A: Yes, cyanogen chloride.  It was enclosed in the box with an airtight seal.

Q: I am going to refer to cyanogen chloride as "the gas" or "gas" from here on so we don't have to keep saying its name.  Is that all right with you?

A: Fine.

Q: Was there a warning sign on the door indicating that such a hazard existed in the lab?

A: Well, the gas container is not normally stored in the room where the box had been set up, so there wasn't a permanent sign, but there was a warning sign stating that an experiment was in progress and that only authorized people should enter.

Q: But no specific warning about toxic gas.

A: No.

Q: So the deceased would have had no way of knowing her life would be at risk upon entering the room?

A: A warning sign was on the door.  She wasn't an authorized person so she should have stayed out.

Q: Was there a warning on the box?

A: No, but there was a warning on the gas cylinder itself.

Q: But there was nothing on the box indicating that the gas cylinder was inside?

A: No.

Q: What was the cause of death of the deceased?

Scarpelli: That's part of the medical examiner's statement. Dr. Collins you don't need to answer that.

Q: Okay - the medical examiner states that the deceased died due to cyanogen chloride inhalation. Was this gas in the air of the lab when the deceased entered?

A: No.

Q: How do you know that?

A: There was a calibrated detector for the gas set up in the room attached to an alarm system.  The detector read no gas in the room itself.

Q: Was there gas in the box when the deceased entered the room?

A: There was the bottle containing the supply.

Q: No, I'm asking if there was any gas floating free in the air of the box.

A: Yes and no.

Q: Yes and no?  It's got to be either one or the other, Dr. Collins.

A: Not according to the quantum mechanics principles we just discussed.  Both states are in superposition until an observation occurs.  In this case, it was Miss Levy who provided the observation when she opened the box. By opening the box she affected reality, the superposition collapsed into the gas being in the box, and she was exposed.  Until that moment reality wasn't determined.

Q: You're saying that the process of opening the box caused the gas to be present?

A: That is exactly what I am saying.  And our results from that trial bear it out.  Neither the detector nor that cat caused the superposition to collapse.  It was the observation by Miss Levy, and I have the data to prove it.  She caused the condition that got her killed.  Not me. That was our discovery.

Q: That's absurd.

A: That's science.

Scarpelli: And that's the end of this interview.  We're done here.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Guest Author - KateMarie Collins!!

Psst!  Over here!

No one make a sound!  I’m trying to be sneaky and take over Todd’s blog for the day!  See, he went and bought my book right when it came out.  Then, he went and wrote the first ever fan fic for it less than 48 hours after it released.  I’m thinking it is payback time!

Now, Todd and I have never actually met.  Though he has volunteered to provide security for me at a con should I ever get to that point in my career.  I do believe we’ve set up a duel between him and the other volunteer member of the squad at the hotel swimming pool.  Two combatants, two super soakers, and an obstacle course made out of lounge chairs! 

There was also a mention of either the super soakers being filled with alcohol or the combatants wearing rainbow tutus, but I’m not certain if that’s happening yet.  We’ll keep you posted.  I think the promise of pictures made both Todd and Tony leery of the tutus.

Todd’s a great writer.  I think you all know this.  What you may not know, however, is that he’s just as good at encouraging others.  He managed to convince this very inexperienced and unsure new writer that she had the stuff to get published.   Whenever I waivered, he’d be right there telling me that I wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.  For that, he found a place in the dedication at the front of my book.  Nope, didn’t tell him ahead of time.  I let him have the fun of seeing it firsthand.

Hmmm…maybe I can convince him to wear the tutu after all….hmmmm……..

Todd and I met through a yahoo Fantasy Writers group.  Back in January, I became one of the lucky few who got offered a publishing contract.  Now I have the fun job of bullying him and another great writer on the site, Tony Rudzki, to get their stuff out there.

Speaking of Tony, I’m hijacking his blog tomorrow ( Feel free to visit me there tomorrow and see if I can get HIM into a tutu as well!
Ok, time for the part of the blog where I tell you I’m putting a whole bunch of links down at the bottom for my book or how to find me in various places.  But, before I do that, I want you all to promise me to harass Todd once I’m gone!  Start asking him when he’s giving you new stuff to read, when’s his first book signing, or if he’s decided on a color for the tutu!
KateMarie Collins

Twitter:  @DaughterHauk

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"The Package"

"He did what?"

"Lawrence Carpini skipped town. He left a message for you."

I took the phone from Jones and keyed in the repeat code. It was bad.

"Hey, Lieutenant Miles. Carpini here. I've been doing some thinking, and I'm afraid I have some bad news. You see, my analysis has shown that staying around to testify against Malzone would be bad for my health. Sorry to skip out on you, but the seaweed is always greener in somebody else's lake, so to speak. At least, that's what Sebastian is always telling me. I thought about heading to Canada, but he had something to say about that, too. You dream about going up there, he says, but that is a big mistake. So maybe Mexico. I know this quaint little spot there where my package and I can be kept safe. Don't come lookin' for me – I ain't givin' it to ya. Only Sebastian knows where I can be found, and he has a way with words."

That was it. The slimy weasel was leaving town less than a week before the trial. His testimony on Malzone's accounts was critical to the DA office's case against Malzone, and the files he had promised to deliver were going to be the nail in the coffin. And now he pulled this.

I slammed the phone back into the cradle. Jones flinched.

"What now, lieutenant?"

"Send out an APB on Carpini. Maybe we'll get lucky."

Jones' expression told me he didn't think that likely. I agreed with him.


As much as I wanted to drown my sorrows at Ditka's, it was my turn to watch Sophie and Jeanine would kill me if I spoiled another one of her nights out with her friends. I normally enjoy the one on one time with my daughter, but tonight I just couldn't get Carpini's message out of my head. It replayed over and over again. My anger had worn off, replaced by a nagging since of doubt. Something
about the message just didn't make any sense.

Sophie handed me a naked DVD and I dutifully put it in the player. She clapped her hands and plopped herself down on the floor as I returned to the lazy boy. This was cheating, I knew. I was supposed to be spending time with her, not letting her sit mindlessly in front of the TV, but I needed the time to think.

What about the message was off? Some of the phrases were strange, but Carpini would turn a strange phrase from time to time. The man considered himself a bit of a poet. I'd always known him to be quite articulate, choosing his words carefully. Maybe that's what he'd done in this case. Maybe he was trying to tell me something beyond what the words conveyed.

I ran through the message again. The seaweed line was something Carpini would say, though he had attributed it to this Sebastian character. I wasn't sure who that was. Maybe Sebastian Porter, one of Malzone's old business partners? What did he have to do with this? If I could figure that out, I might be able to understand what Carpini was saying. The parts about Canada and Mexico where obviously there to throw others off the trail; there was no way Carpini would spill where he was headed. "My package" obviously referred to the financial records he was supposed to provide the DA's office in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The next line was interesting. Carpini had slipped into a Chicago accent as he said it – a far cry from the cultured English and flawless grammar he usually used. "I ain't givin' it to ya," he had said. It was the only line in the whole message spoken that way. Maybe he used the accent to emphasize it. Maybe he pointed it out to let me know he was lying. I ain't givin; it to ya" may have been his way of telling me he still intended to give me the package even though he, himself, was bailing. Malzone surely knew that Carpini had spoken to us. Carpini had to know that he was safer with Malzone behind bars. Even if he ran Malzone would come after him. The financials would ensure Malzone was put away. Maybe Carpini had left them somewhere for me to find. If that was the case, maybe the key to the package's location was hidden in the message.

I thought it over for a while, but nothing came to me. I glanced at my watch. It was 7:35 – time for Sophie to hit the sack.

"Come on, munchkin," I said, "time for bed."

"But Daddy, this is the best part."

Reggae music filled the room as a the red crab in Sophie's favorite movie burst into song.

"The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else's lake. You dream about going up there, but that is a big mistake. Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things surround you, what more is you lookin' for?"

My mouth dropped open. Those were the exact lines from Carpini's message.

"Under the sea...Under the sea...darling it's better...."

What was that crab's name? Sebastian, wasn't it? "Sebastian knows where it can be found." My mind made the mental connections and threw out the memory of the headline on yesterday's society page in the Trib. I scrambled for recycling bin where I yanked out the paper. It took a few moments to find the page.

"Under the Sea – New exhibit opens at the Shedd Aquarium."

Bedtime forgotten I tore my cell phone from its holder and dialed the precinct.

"Call the Shedd Aquarium," I said when Jones answered. "We need immediate access."


The director at the Shedd was very accommodating. Within ninety minutes we hada crew at the Aquarium turning the exhibit upside down. The search lasted more than four hours with no results.

I smashed my fist into my open palm. "This can't have been a coincidence. It's got to be here."

"I don't know what to tell you, lieutenant," Jones replied, "There's nothing here. The director wants us out so they can set things up for tomorrow."

I shook my head. This had to be it. The package had to be here. How had I missed it? Had I been wrong about Carpini's intentions?

As we exited the exhibit room my eye fell on the sign. "Under the Sea" was spelled out in large brass letters that practically leapt off the wood base. My mind ran through the message one more time. I had been so certain. The last line echoed in my brain.

"Only Sebastian knows where I can be found, and he has a way with words."

A way with words. I had thought that was a throwaway line – but what if it was significant. A way with WORDS.

On a hunch I approached the sign. My fingers felt around behind the letters. There was a space there. I found the flash drive behind the letter "S."

Under the "Sea."

"Carpini, you are one clever weasel." I stowed the flash drive in my pocket.

Next time I had my alone time with Sophie it was ice cream for sure, and her favorite movie. Maybe I would even sing along.