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.

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Current Case: #002 The Fuschia Falcon


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.


Set a Course for Justice

It was good to see Franklin back from Hotlanta relatively unscorched, but we'd only run into each other on a few social occasions and the case was going cold as pizza left overnight. We needed to act fast, no matter how good a day-old pizza sounded. Hastily, we met to talk about where things stood and where to go next. It was an overcast but still nice day, and as the office wasn't covered in bees, we set up shop.

"When all leads seem dead, start at the beginning" is the kind of advice I'd expect a mentor to give me, if we'd actually be trained by one. So, we went back to the articles we looked at on Day One and the maps from Day, uh, Several. We knew we needed a snitch, someone who knew the area well and knew the cases better. We pulled a name from the local paper and vowed to at least shoot him an e-mail. If we got a slant of some of scenes, that might also work as some kind of a lead; failing that, there was always the library, the archives or the Buttons.

While looking through our old materials, we came across a mention of a Real Estate fire. This was news to me, Franklin was blank on it as well. We noted it down, but as the night air cooled we gathered our things to head into the Waiting room to finish; preferring to be hard-boiled, not frozen. Something caught Franklin's attention, and he demanded to see the Surveillance photos we pulled. Taking a closer look, there were a few things we saw:
  • This cat looks like he's fairly tall, in shape although not the most athletic chump, fairly dark hair, and what looks like muttonchops.
  • He had a duffel bag, in which he could easily keep a gas can and a few matchbooks, as well as the hat he pulled out by the fourth photo.
  • Putting the gas can in the bag, and either carrying or stuffing the tire in his bag, he wouldn't need to show up in a boiler at all. This, fits the profile we came up with.
  • He wasn't wearing anything thicker than a t-shirt. After some quick digging on the weather, we crabbed that the weather couldn't've been more than the 23 to 37 degree range--he must have been cold.
There was one thing about the profile that Franklin needed to hear a second time: These kinds of perps usually use matches which they leave behind, or lighters which they take with them. He considered this for a minute.
"It has to be the book." He said. I looked at him quizzically for a moment, so he continued. "If the guy is lighting the tires with a lighter, it would take longer--which isn't easy with a lighter." He was right, the more I thought about it. Lighters would force him to get close to the tire and hold a flame on the gas for a while; A matchbook, he could light the whole thing and toss it into the tire before dusting.

There was one small thing that caught my eye, not as much a lead as a hunch. Looking at the difference between the first three scene photos, and the last one, there is a slight change in our guy. He stands taller and has a slight air of pride. I don't feel like he's congratulating himself on a job well done, my hunch is he's stepping back to see his latest work of art unfold. Franklin says he could see the confidence, but I don't think you could quote either of us on that second part.

A few days later, I tried to contact our egg at the paper. He got back to me, saying he couldn't comment but suggested trying the paper's archive or the library. It seemed that all signs pointed towards Boston Public Library.


Hotlanta - Oddly Not an Arsonist Hideout

Franklin here, back from a brief stint in Atlanta. Turner and I are still hot on the trail of our perp, and will be providing an update later this week. Before that, a few words on my travels. In Hotlanta I was shacked up in the new drug and sex-slave trade capital of the country, Gwinnett County. Unfortunately, the only drug I saw was aspirin, and the only slaves were consumers. But, I was witness to more than a few crimes. Here's the skinny:

Crime #1
Date: May 16th
Scene: House party
Some unscrupulous vandal tossed his cookies mid-conversation. My quick reflexes allowed me to dodge the spray, but the tile floor was not so lucky. I had a motive tagged to the guy before he even made it to the bathroom: Papa Stalin Vodka.

Crime #2
Date: May 22nd
Scene: A Room as Dark as the Night is Long
I was watching the new Star Trek flick. No complaints there. What's the crime? Zoe Saldana's getaway sticks glommed my ticker.

Crimes #3 & #4
Date: May 28th
Scene: G-Braves Stadium
Reports on the quality of a local baseball team were substantiated. But the establishment has a long way to go in theft prevention: $8.00 for a chili-cheese dog looks like highway robbery to me. Got to see Tom Glavine pitch holes through Cleveland's team before he was to move up to the major league Braves. Few days later an informant contacted me. Turns out he got sacked not long after the game. In a town of raw deals, Glavine was just handed a plate of sushi.

Crime #5
Date: May 30th
Scene: A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy
Dames and eggs, such is the state of our tattered union: we Bay-staters enjoy reliable public transportation, clean politicians, and a uniform distribution of wealth, while in a secluded dump south of ATL, the conditions are simply medieval. I saw mugs and dolls alike carrying 36-inch shivs in broad daylight. Janes walking about advertising their wares like they were on eBay. Folks riding on horses instead of boilers. And the chow was barbaric: giant turkey gams and slabs of meat on sticks were hot items. The brew was alright. Most appalling of all was the state-sanctioned murder: At the end of the day, the mayor of the joint oversaw a duel. A duel that ended in the Big One. I was among the helpless onlookers encouraged to choose between the two contenders. Most of the crowd's support went to a regular roundheels; my guy definitely had the bulge on him. Or so I thought. Real quick-like he took a shiv across the throat, and that was that. Disgusted, I took a bunk and turned my better side to the Dirty Dirty forever.

Now that I'm back, expect updates to be more regular. Thanks to Turner for flying solo at the desk for a while.


New Informant Network

Well, again there aren't a lot of developments on the case. Still have to get a meeting with Franklin in soon as we can get some booze together.

However, one somewhat exciting development is that we've tapped into a larger network of Boston-based informants. This will get us some more readers--and hopefully some more leads--as well as getting us closer to upcoming cases. Be sure to check them out using the banner to the right.

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