What's Going On Here?

The noir adventures of Franklin and Turner, two former English Majors who teamed up to pool their knowledge of TV crime dramas to solve Boston's toughest cases.

How Did this Happen?: About this Blog
Current Case: #002 The Fuschia Falcon


Have your Babycakes and Eat It Too

Short while back, Franklin and I wound up at some dive near the Northeastern schooling joint. Buncha theatrical plugs getting together bi-weekly in this underground meet, call themselves the Silver Masque. Been running since the beginning of the year, and the teachers put myself and Franklin on the case to dig up the dirt--they weren't invited, wanted to show up. We called on this bird we know, and pulled together the following as part of the cover story. Pretending to be a bunch of attendees, we performed this skit to make the mob accept us as their own. After this, we were deep undercover. We appeared on the evening's program as:

Private Eye Dicks

Turner monologue: Boston, Massachusetts. The city was a cesspool: crime, drugs, underaged drinking. I wasn’t trying to fix it, I was just looking for a paycheck. It’d been a few months since Franklin and I had last worked on a gig. Back in the day, we used to drink from the same bottle, but over the months without pay, we had started seeking other opportunities. Now, his message promised this case was a good one: There was a client, and she could pay. He said they’d be around the office around 11 AM.

Franklin and Luscious approach

Turner: Dammit. I didn’t want Franklin to realize I’d been bunking in the office again, so I lammed on out the back way.

Turner sneaks out. Franklin and Luscious enter. Franklin shows Luscious to a chair and breaks away.

Turner enters a moment later.

Customary greeting: Turner, Franklin

Franklin: This is the big one, Turner.

Turner: So you mentioned. What’ve we got?

Franklin: Missing person. You’ll have to come and meet the client.

Turner approaching, monologue: That’s when I saw her. Hair the color of blonde hair, legs reaching down to the floor. Eyes like brown cookies. I heard saxophones play the moment our eyes met. Then I realized I still had my iPod on.

Franklin: Miss Luscious, please meet my associate, Turner.

Luscious: Charmed. You do realize I heard everything you just said.

Turner ignoring: Pleasure’s mine, I assure you.
Monologues We shook hands. From her grip, I could tell she was the kind of broad who could squeeze a dollar out of any nickel.
Luscious looks and half-asks “What does that mean?” Turner dismisses it.
Now, tell us what we can do for you.

Luscious: Well, it’s my boyfriend, Babycakes McGooligher. He’s gone. He was in uh, let’s say ‘involved in things no good catholic boy should be involved in.’

Turner: As she spoke, it sounded like angels reciting the Gettysburg address.

Franklin: So you think they bumped him off?

Luscious: No, I mean that’s the last time we’d heard from the boss. My boyfriend was nowhere to be seen, and about $50,000 in cash is also missing. The police think they’re hot on his trail.

Turner: And you think differently?

Luscious: I know different. He’s too smart to be made by a batch of peepers. I know with you boys on the case, he’ll be back with his Miss Luscious in no time.

Franklin: Well, we’ll follow up some leads and give you a call when we have something.

Turner: And if you need anything else in the meantime, don’t hesitate to call. Or drop by, any time. Day or night!

Luscious: Thank you, boys. Thank you.

Luscious exits

Franklin: So, how do we find Babycakes?

Turner: Well, I happen to have a plan. I’ll get on the blower, set you up with this bindle stiff I know downtown. Real redhot, shady character. I’ll tell him to expect a pimp, name of Aluitious Featherstone. You will need a disguise, obviously.

Turner hands Franklin temporary sunglasses. Franklin looks uneasily at them.

Franklin: And... what will you be doing?

Turner: While you’re chasing down leads and giving folk the third degree, as necessary, I’ll be here piecing the whole thing together. I’ll see if the buttons’ve heard anything on Babycakes, take a hooker of gin, uh, have some more eel juice. You know, the usual.

Franklin starts to talk, “something I’ve been meaning to tell you...” Turner rushes him out the door.

Turner: You know who to call if you find yourself in a jam.

Franklin exits

Turner monologue: First thing I’d have to do was get inside this goose’s skull. What made Babycakes tick? How did the Boss’ final moments go down? The one thing I was certain of was that to pull this kind of a caper off, you’d have to be all jingle-brained at the time--which meant, I too would have to suck down some giggle juice just to think like him.

Turner takes a drink, pauses to pass time. Takes another drink

Turner monologue: Franklin had been underground for a few days. No call, didn’t write. He’s a pug when he needs to be, but I was still a little concerned.

Franklin reappears, hands Turner a slip of paper

Franklin: I found this. Took it off this real clout down by Macy’s.

Turner examining paper: You don’t say. Well in’t that some kind of Chinese angle on the whole thing?

Franklin: You mean it's got lead in it?

Turner ignoring: Good work, Franklin. Back to the field.

Franklin re-exits, rearranging the chairs into a stake-out arrangement as he leaves.

Turner: Three days passed. I didn’t hear from Franklin. For all I knew, my partner’d been chilled off and I couldn’t stop it. I headed out, checked the cops’ blotter and a few other sources. No word. Some Bruno socked me in the face, held a shiv to my throat. There were two possibilities: I was gettin’ mugged, or I was on to something. I went with my gut: Turn the heat up high enough, and eventually you’ll cook yourself a roast.
Pause Note to self: ask Franklin if he’s seen my wallet.

Franklin re-enters.

Turner: Franklin. Good to see you’ve made it.

Franklin: Come with me, Turner, I’ve got something you’re going to want to see. I parked my flivver out front, and there’s a sight down by Brigham circle.

Turner: Franklin doesn’t usually get this worked up about stuff. Except maybe Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Boy loves his cereal. We headed down to the joint, and waited to see what we could see.

Turner and Franklin go to the car stake-out. Read a paper, banter for a while.

Turner: So, Franklin. Meaning to ask you... Pimping. How was it?

Franklin: Well, it ain’t easy.

Turner: ’s what I hear.

More silence for a few minutes. Turner turns a few pages on the paper.

Turner, monologuing: Stake-outs are pretty boring...

Franklin: What’re you talking about? I love Longhorn.

Turner aggravated: Not steak out, Stake-outs. Bad coffee, worse donuts. A car that smells like ass.

Franklin hesitating, but determined: Turner, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about. There’s a dead hooker in my trunk.

Turner nonplussed: Oh. We’ll deal with it later.

Both return to silence for a moment, then as if changing the subject:

Turner: Did you know, it’s illegal to give smokes to a monkey in New Jersey?

Franklin: Huh, so that’s why their monkeys live longer than ours?

Luscious enters

Franklin: Notice something?

Turner: That’s the broad what hired us. What’s she doing here?

Franklin: Precisely. Let’s nab her, see if she sings.

Franklin and Turner get up just as Luscious hides behind large set piece.

Franklin: Got your heater on you?

Turner: Always ready to burn powder.

Guns drawn, the dicks lead out none other than Babycakes McGooliger himself, wearing Luscious’ clothes.

Turner: Just as I thought.

Franklin: I first realized it--

Turner interrupting, monologuing, pulling out slip of paper: I first realized it when Franklin brought me this: A receipt for the Waist-Master 6000. Only happens to be the most powerful girdle money can buy. It’s like squeezing Play-doh in a vice. That’s when it struck me: why would a dame with such a figure need this device.

Franklin rips wig off of Babycakes, identifies him to the crowd.

Franklin: Only if she were really the boyfriend she hired us to find, out on the lam.

Babycakes: I figured getting you palookas on the case would get the fuzz off my kiester. I would’ve made it to Mexico, too, if it weren’t for that pimp downtown, Featherstone.

Turner: That was another case for Turner and Franklin. Easy money. We handed him off to the law, and went to cash the check--

Franklin: Turner, you realize we’re getting nothing.

Turner: What?

Franklin: Babycakes’ assets were frozen, his check’s a piece of orphan paper.

Turner: Oh... Well, I've been hitting on a man all week, so I’m going to go throw up.


The Accusing Parlor

The turnout at the deMontesque house was fairly impressive for short notice. This was good for me, I wanted to work a crowd today. Plus, even if I was wrong I'd sound right in a larger room; the hasty--and delayed--Google search had already confirmed my theory. As Alice entered, I ran my pipes:

"You're all probably wondering why I called you here. Good.

"When the dame here came to me first, I was admittedly distracted by the lamb's gams. This is probably why it took me so long to figure this one out. Broads kind of have that effect on me, I'll admit. Anyway, when I first cased the joint, I started to work on a theory. This was a little too focused to be your average smash-and-grab job. If anything, they knew what they were coming here for and how to find it. Meaning, they had to already know about the missing gemstone.
"Next, I needed to try and figure out the kind of person who could get into a place like this. Security ain't lax, but it's not exactly Fort Knox either. For that, I staged a break in: came here the other night and tried to climb in. I'm a pretty spry guy," I ignored a couple of scoffs, "but it was a challenge for me. This means the guy was either a pro, or he didn't actually climb in through the window.
"Now, when I met the chick of the house this morning, I discovered something. Hopefully, you're following the pattern that's developing. Either that, or I'm rambling again. So, before you cats all fall asleep, let me ask Alice something. This morning, you dropped your candy bar into a glass. Why'd you do that?"
The dame spoke up, "When I was little, my mom taught me to do that. Kept ants off my chocolate."
"Exactly. And what did we find when I started?"
"A candy bar in a glass. You told me that was the mark of some international art thief."
"The Sommelier, yes. Actually, that's french for Wine Steward. It was a red herring. No, the real thief," I pulled on a pair of sunglasses before continuing, "is actually in this room!"
The collection of gasps was rewarding. Only three, but still worth it.
"Even more shocking, the stolen rock wasn't actually the meat."
This got more gasps: almost everyone this time. Worth all the sawbucks in the world.
"See, I did some internet research on this missing gemstone, the Fuschia Falcon and I discovered something important: it doesn't exist. There are, however, a bunch of Smash Bros. screenshots that fit the description. This wasn't about the gemstone at all, was it, Alice?"
She faked surprise well. "What?"
"How much did you insure the gem for?"
"How much?"
"Ten grand."
"And how much will your insurance company be paying out?"
"Should be ten grand..."
"I wasn't asking you, I was asking him!" I turned and pointed to a stocky man in glasses and suspenders.
"Who's he?" Alice asked.
He introduced himself, "Bob Johnson. I represent your insurance company. To answer your question, Mr. Turner: Zero dollars. Thank you for figuring this out."

The only question I haven't answered yet: how do I tell Franklin that we're not getting a check for this one either? On the plus side, insurance company's letting me off on Accessory to Fraud Charges...


Am Not Wearing Cologne, Dammit!

I climbed out of the shower the next morning, washing away the fitful few hours of sleep while something about the case didn't sit right. Kept thinking to myself "were Franklin here, I'd be really freaked out; my bed's for chippies and chicks only. Also, what the hell am I going to tell the client? Have to wonder what's with this chocolate? Seemed to be a theme developing." That was perhaps a question to ask her at Licks'. Before leaving, I dressed and shaved, even checked that I'd have enough petty cash for a business expense like a pair of mid-morning milkshakes from the ice cream joint.

I pulled up a chair at the outside tables and waited for the skirt to arrive. She was late, as dames tend to be (and I've been slapped enough to learn that ya don't comment on this aloud). I couldn't help but stare at her legs as she walked over, and dropped her numerous bags beside the table, standing impatiently over me.
Casually, I prompted some conversation: "Been shopping?"
"Just a few things," the curt response, "You said you'd have something for me?"
"Uh, yeah. Drink?"
There was rising frustration in her tone. "That's all you have for me?"
"No, uh. The chocolate. Turns out it's a calling card. Some frog art thief or something. Calls himself, uh, the Sommelier."
She seemed relieved and sat down, pulling out a 100 Grand bar. She unwrapped it and started to chew.
Watched her for a second before she glowered at me. "Well?"
"Yeah, uh," I channeled every single one of Mrs. Thomson's Drama classes in the 3rd grade. "Well, turns out this guy is changing his MO a little. Instead of sticking to high class art, he's moving over to jewels. Story goes he was trained in a Ninjutsu monastery, uses his Kung-fu to break into a place and bust past security. Leaves half a chocolate bar as a consolation prize."
The bim was eating this up; so I left it at "And I'll find the bastard."

She rose, lifting the last bites of her candy bar over the table. "Want this?"
"Nah, I'm good."
It hovered over a glass in the middle of the table before she dropped it, "well, I'll leave it there in case you change your mind. So ants don't get in."
Suddenly, something snapped into place in my head. I had an announcement, and I felt like I needed everyone to be there.
"Gather your entire household in the trophy room tonight. How many people is that?"
"Me and my husband. The maid sometimes, but it's her day off."
"Get her, get some friends to join us in the accusing parlor!"
Despite her blank stare, I pulled my coat on and dashed back to the office.


It Takes a P.I. to Catch a P.I.

It was near midnight when the last light finally went out. I had parked my heap just beyond sight and staked out for my opportunity. If I knew anything about psychology, it was this: if you want to understand a bird, you've gotta walk a mile in his shoes. Seeing as I still didn't know our perp's brand, figured I'd fake it and try just walking as he did: on the night he stole the Fuschia Falcon!

Climbing the gate was a cinch, and without any guard dogs or night watchmen keeping an eye out, slinking across the grass was almost easier. Unfortunately, without the use of Franklin's flashlight, I was doing the cell-phone-as-a-light-source thing. I didn't even know I'd found the right window until I felt the warm interior air escaping through the broken window. I peered into the gloomy trophy room I'd been in earlier--it was empty; of people anyway, the furniture was still there. I searched the murky night for some way to shimmy in through the broken frame. Finally decided there was none, and hoisted myself in clumsily. I'd made it halfway through before losing my balance and crashing to the ground.

I was sure the noise had woken someone, there was an electric feeling in the air of something getting up. Cursing the lack of a partner, I hastily explored the room for anything I'd missed earlier. I re-checked the shelves and the upturned box on the floor. In the pale light of my phone, I noticed a smudge on it which I hadn't noticed earlier: it was the same brown as the wood, but in this light it didn't reflect. There was no way I could snap a photo of it, as my only camera was currently also my light source, but I could try one thing: I wiped a small part of it onto my finger and tasted it. Chocolate. I should have known.

The door burst open before I had a chance to try anything else, light flooding the room and obscuring the tasty evidence. It was the dame who'd hired me, standing in a half-open robe and, I'll say it, some really sexy lingerie.

"Turner? What the hell are you doing?" She asked, both frustrated and perplexed as she hastily closed her robe.
"Investigating." I said, with all of the confidence I could muster. "I'll, uh, have some answers for you in the morning. Can you bring some photos of your precious rock to JP Licks around 11? I may have something for you then."


Sept 1st Strikes Again

For those concerned, the Fuschia Falcon is not going by the wayside. There is hope yet, and after a daring break-in, er, recreation, I may have blown this case wide open. Or, I may just like saying that to seem like I know what's up. Either way, there's a small problem:
My case notes are somewhere in that pile...


The Peppermint Red Herring

After a quick tip from one of our readers last week, I did a little research on this bogus-sounding jewel, the Peppermint Rhinestone. Rumored to have disappeared from somewhere in JP over the last few weeks, this little rock is causing a bit of a problem for some of the other local dicks. Similar deal, but not from the deMontesque household--some folks from France or somewhere, Montagne or something.

Two gems taken in the same neighborhood in a short period of time. It's starting to sound a bit like there's a cat burglar prowling. I had heard something about one a little while back, maybe our gonif is back in town? Seems a little more likely than our Usual Suspects--pretty sure Busey and Glenn Beck are both away for now.

Not wanting to be late for a meet with Alice, I headed out to her place. "Best place to start is at the scene," I remember reading in a book once. Although I take that with a grain of salt, this was the same book that told me not everything comes out of a Pulp novel holds water. I say the best place to start is the end, but I guess the beginning will do in a pinch. I pulled into the driveway of the deMontesque house and locked my heap up. The place was far from a dump, and the inside looked even better. It was one of those places over by Pond Street, those really slick stacks of bricks with gardens in the fronts and fences made from something other than chain link between the neighbors. I flashed my ticket at the man who answered the door and stepped inside before he could protest--or even read it.

Alice appeared within a moment and told the man not to worry about me. He looked even more bewildered, but she whisked me toward the back of the house before he could string a question together. The room she lead me to had books scattered all over the floor and cabinet doors left open. There was an empty shelf, and a wooden box lay open, face down on the floor.
"This is where the Falcon was, I take it."
"Yes, until it was taken."
"Well, obviously. I'm guessing you have no idea who would want to do this."
"Yeah. No idea."
"Let me take a look around here."

The wooden box was maybe a foot square, four inches deep. Using the end of a pen, I pulled part of it up and looked under: thing was completely empty. I looked around the room for a point of entry. The window had been shattered, and I stuck my head out through the gap. It was only a few feet to the rosebush below. Easy to get in or out. As I stepped back, my foot crunched some of the glass deeper into the carpet.
"Whoever it was came in here," I observed, "Wanted it to look like a robbery, but the real target was the stone."
The blonde grinned ear to ear. "I knew I'd picked the right guys."
Real men never blush, so I didn't. "Glad I didn't disappoint."
I kept looking around the room. "Odds are he wore gloves, so fingerprinting would be useless. Only prints we'd find are, I'm assuming, yours and the stiff by the door."
"My Husband, yes."
"No cleaners, maids or anything?"
"Nope. None."
"Lovers?" I offered.
"No! I'm faithful."
Stubbed my toe on something and muttered a curse under my breath. It had been the edge of a bookshelf, and my foot had set all of the tchotchkes wobbling. A drinking glass on one of the upper shelves tipped like it'd gone over the edge with the rams, and went over the edge, spilling out onto the carpet. Only what was weird about this was that instead of water or a shot of white, it was a half-eaten candy bar. The glass shattered, flecks of it stuck in the chocolate.
"What was that?" deMontesque asked.
"Not sure. Candy bar in a glass."
"Maybe it's a calling card?"
I said nothing, but it was possible. I would have to do some research before I could come back to her with it. I suggested she locked the door and not let anyone in until I came back. Otherwise, the place seemed to check out, and it didn't look like I was going to get anything else out of it. Clambered back into the flivver and drove back to the office--had to get some dark slacks on and haul ass to my undercover gig.


The Fuschia Falcon

Those of you still checking in from time to time may have noticed a slight lag in service. Not to make excuses, but this is 'cause Franklin and I have been making headway on that Undercover Case we vaguely referenced a little while ago. Now that the op is winding down, we can share a little: We called it the Mystery of the Missing Money, and we posed as a pair of birds on the nut and on the dole, trying to find paying gigs. Due to witness protection and other legal mumbo-jumbo, we can't give you any more detail than that.

However, back to the babe who came in while Franklin and I were wrapping up the Firebug Case: did I mention the gams on her? Quite a dame she was. We lead her into the office and made her comfortable with a cup of coffee. She asked if we knew who she was, and we admitted she had the bulge on us there.

"Alice deMontesque," she introduced herself with a slight drawl.
I asked how we could help her on such a fine day.
"There was a robbery at my home last night, and something of incredible value was taken."
Franklin chimed in, "Why didn't you go to the Flatfoots with it?"
"Let's just say that we like our privacy at home."
"And what was taken?" I added.
"The Fuschia Falcon, a rare diamond from Russia."
Franklin and I looked at each other for a moment.
Hopeful, the dame asked, "So you've heard of it?"
"Nope, not at all, ma'am." Franklin replied.
"What's so special about it?" I threw in, pretending to know about jewels.
"It's known for its perfect clarity and a slight pink imperfection. It's embedded in a bird-shaped pendant."
"Where was it when you lost it?" Franklin continued.
She seemed a little puzzled, "I didn't lose it, it was stolen from our house over by Jamaica Pond."
I copied down the address.
"So, why pick us of all the dicks you could ask?" was Franklin's final question.
"I saw your work on the Arson case and knew you were the guys to see."

We left her in the office and chinned outside for a minute. Franklin had one problem, he needed a couple of weeks for a test, getting a permit for his bean-shooter. We need the case, and we needed a win, so I agreed to go it alone. It put me behind the eight ball, but there were men who'd climb Everest naked for a dish like her; I just had to find a necklace.


Coming Clean

So, readers and Mahoneys alike, by now you will have probably deduced that the JP Firebug case has gone colder than a penguin's junk. We've heard nothing new and have had now big breakthroughs. After Franklin and I turned down our third new client, I had to come clean to him about just how much money the Arson case would be bringing in. I'll spare you the expletives of his reaction, but the spit-take was quite impressive. Note to self: always give bad news when someone is drinking coffee.

Corollary: Always make sure they are unarmed when you do.

Yelling from the safety of behind the bathroom door, I suggested that we put the case on the back burner until it heats up again. Ignoring the double-barreled cliche, I continued, "We'll take another case, and this one won't be pro-bono. We'll actually get paid, I promise." The blunt thumping on the door stopped, and after a few moments I tentatively opened it.

Franklin was standing and staying at the woman who had just opened the office door, hiding the broken table leg behind his back. Blonde hair cascaded down her shoulders to her back, her legs stretched from the floor to her hips, and she was wearing a silk red dress. For no readily apparent reason, a breeze tossed her hair sensuously about.

"You boys the detectives?" She asked.
I corrected her that we were Private Eyes, and that we were there to help. We lead her upstairs to the meeting area and offered her some coffee. I cracked open the Case Laptop to take notes.

Then I got distracted and wrote this blog post. I should probably actually discuss the case with her... More after the actual meeting.


too Good to be Realty

The moon hung overheard like a glowing pocket watch as Franklin and I pulled the car up to the docks. Through the fencing, we could make out the outline of a flivver, and we knew this is where our meat was hiding out. Quietly, we pulled the Scarlet Solver into a space and killed the engine. A cold pizza and cups of coffee were all that accompanied us on this chilly evening. Inside the complex, there was a small building, or maybe a retrofitted shipping container, with a light on, and this Franklin and I watched intently. Hours passed slowly, and soon even rounds "I Spy" became monotonous.

Suddenly, there was slight movement just beyond the chain link. A knowing look passed between us, the pair of dicks in the car; Franklin and I were off like a shot. This was our one chance to bring the guy down ourselves, after that he would either be in the wind or in the cooler. So, we ran. Franklin, being the smaller of us, took a ten fingered boost over the fence, just grazing a hand on the barbed wire on top before dropping down and letting me in. We both channeled every tiger we'd ever seen stalking in the zoo as we tried to surround him. The silence roared in my ears, accented by the blood pumping rhythmically. There was a creak, one of us had hit a door or a wall or something. We heard running, and followed suit. I lost Franklin somewhere in the shipyard, but continued alone, fueled only by adrenaline.

He hadn't seen us coming, and was completely unprepared. He was a little faster than I, but I proved myself more agile. Eventually I gained on him and with a final charging leap I landed on his back, taking him to the ground with me. I called out for Franklin as I wrestled him into a submission hold. At our most defining moment, he looked me square in the eyes and said: "BBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!"

Slowly, I became aware not only of sunlight, but of birds singing faintly in the background. I looked beside me at the bed I had fallen out of and the pillow I now knelt triumphantly upon. Muttering to myself, I reached a series of conclusions: either Franklin and I had better hurry up and put this guy away, or I had better stop eating hard-boiled eggs and drinking shine before bed. I also realized that we needed some more information to work on, and someone who could help us figure out this division in our theories was a professor Books Mahony knew of at the local Brainbank, some University named after a compass direction. I would e-mail him directly.


A Lead in a Haystack

Saturday June 20th. Turner and I took a bite out of the dusty combo meal of knowledge and eccentric vagrants that is the Boston Public Library. Little did we know that it would come with a super-sized portion of McInsight and a 32oz cup of divisiveness.

After some bumbling in the McKim building, we found the sparsely-occupied microfilm room. We would have been quicker in divining the microfilm machines, but our associate Books Mahoney was occupied with a serious heart wound. She's recovered, thankfully, and the mug behind it all is on his way to a few years in solitary (i.e. Maine).

I pored over frame after frame of local news coverage from 2005 while Turner took a leap into the Net. And though his web was world wide, the one I began to uncover was more tangled than last year's Christmas lights.

2005 saw the (supposedly accidental) burning of the First Baptist Church on Centre St, and in its wake a slew of real estate squabbles that threatened to cool the gooey warm sense of community JP basks in - or at least severely irritate a fat gaggle of residents and readers. Nearly every issue I scoped contained a letter to the editor concerning tenants' rights, land disputes, and snipes between community groups. Issues of race and class were embedded in these like a slug lodged in a stiff's brainbox.

That summer brought heat waves of all sorts. There was the natural phenomenon itself, which, as any reader of Romeo and Juliet knows, portends nothing good. Then there were the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) elections, which were fiercely contested. And, a week later, El Oriental de Cuba was firebombed. The more I read, the more I felt like a bachelor trying to figure out what had gone rotten in his fridge. My sniffer pointed at the fuzzy black mold gestating in last week's political leftovers.

Residents reported that El Oriental de Cuba was often the scene of debate over Cuban politics. They also mentioned that local suits in the public office held informal meetings there. While most denied that this could lead to such a despicable crime, there was further speculation on who the arsonist was actually trying to hit. Some said he was going for the tenants of the apartments above the shop - which is much more consistent with the pattern that would later emerge. Weeks later residents of a Paul Gore St apartment would submit a frustrated letter to the editor criticizing the JPNC. El Oriental is at the corner of Centre and Paul Gore; and JP Auto Body is just down the street. That has to mean something. The threads of a theory were there, but I didn't know how to crochet.

One thing I did know: though the M.O. was different, this was definitely the work of our bug. One man tried pursuing him after the fire at El Oriental started, and his description fits the surveillance from the Sigourney Street fires. But it was beginning to seem that he was just a puppet on a string held by a twisted group of puppeteers.

Further reading laid out yet more disputes over land and the elections. Reports of voter intimidation surfaced, coinciding with those from the '03 elections. There's not a clear connection (or else the case would be closed), but I was starting to think that somehow our shamuse was not operating solitarily on the revenge motive, and that there was some salt to the notion of this being the work of a gang of some sort. A gang potentially with friends in high places. And I'm not talking the Treefort Club, unless they own property or have their hands in electoral cookie jars.

Turner holds steadfast to the profile we've already developed - a solo flyer with a racial chip on his shoulder. I did read about a rash of arsons that occurred in the '70s and '80s, when our perp was still in his underoos. This follows the profile Turner researched, which suggests a prior influence from or fascination with fire setting. Still, I've got my hunches and he's got his. But perhaps it works better this way - with two different theories, we can keep each other sharp and steer clear of outright conspiracy over cold facts and observation.

We've got a lot of dots to connect and some sketches to color. Our time at the library also left us with a host of new contacts with whom we will be getting in touch. This thing's about as cold as a burning tire in July, so updates will be soon and maybe even regular.


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