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.


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