So It Goes.etl
Dear Diary, there are things going on and I am not a party to them. More than a week has gone by since I was appointed runner to our crime correspondent, Trevor Mercur, and I have been getting very little exercise.
Trevor continues to have closed sessions with the Feck, as we have named our paper's totally charming deputy editor. The Feck continues to grin his ugly head off in unguarded moments. Trevor refuses to talk about their plans, even on pain of having his other ankle broken.
For my part, I have conducted one or two interviews with people who were reluctant to come to the Sentinel building or chat with Trevor on the phone or via the Internet. I have been to court and had my pants bored off very thoroughly. And I have even spoken to Detective Sergeant Fred Crossten on two occasions.
Unfortunately, neither of the cases related to the Ottrals and/or the Corrigans and the good sergeant remains as close-mouthed as the above named in this area.
I have drawn a few conclusions from material which the Feck has ordered me to dig out of the archives, and also areas of research which he has required me to perform, but the mystery remains wrapped in a puzzle or an enigma or whatever.
The writer pressed Ctrl-Alt-A as an alternative to using his mouse. He had more or less completed his thought and he felt inclined to accept a message as means of gauging that Tuesday's likely quality of communications.
|We NEED to do lunch today.|
The writer suggested another trip to TV-land in his reply. Sally Lee had told him that she was going out at lunchtime and, as they were only a virtual couple, she had made a point of not telling him where she was going.
He had barely sent off his reply before Pierson Day was hovering at his shoulder, harassing him for a progress report on a blast from the past, which seemed entirely harmless to the writer but which seemed to prove a point that the Feck-Meister wanted to drive home.
At ten to one, the writer collected Jackie Sydenham and headed for the border zone between the two parts of the Sentinel organization.
"Guess what, Virginia White wants the rest of my book," Jackie told the writer through a broad grin. "The postman arrived just as I was leaving this morning."
"That was quick. She's not asked for certificates from two doctors to prove you really are a female person and not some bloke telling her a load of lies?" the writer added.
"She may be a rabid neofeminist but she doesn't let it get in the way of business," Jackie assured him. "So I was wondering ..."
"If a certain person, who may not be genetically female but it's not his fault really, would do a proof-reading on the rest of it?"
"Do you mind?"
"Minding is irrelevant. I'm going to have to do it over a couple of evenings."
"That should ease the strain on my printer, not having to do it all in one go."
"Of course, you realize that agents and publishers waste a lot of time, making you print stuff out then rejecting it?"
"If you don't make the effort, you never get anywhere," Jackie quoted.
Sally Lee seemed to find the notion entirely logical, but she wanted to know, during a mid-afternoon coffee break, what the writer had been doing at lunchtime. Her own mission, of course, remained top secret. The writer told her about his trip to the café in TV-land and Jackie's good news. He was just trying to find out what Sally had been up to when he detected a familiar, exotic fragrance.
"Sally, I have an assignment for you at Ched-Ex next week," Jill Day announced, referring to the Chedney Exhibition Centre, as she reached the cluster of work stations.
"Sounds like a job for Feng Shoowy Woman," Andras Ektors remarked.
"They're including a section on Chinese medicine and you're the ideal person to cover that." Jill Day ignored the comment from behind her.
Sally Lee put on a dangerous expression.
"I need you to co-ordinate with Don Bentley-Greer on this own. As you know, there are a lot of environmental concerns over traditional Chinese medicine. Such as using bits of tigers and other endangered species, and keeping bears in tiny cages while they extract bile or something equally revolting from them. So you're to act as an interface for Don and help our science correspondent with addressing the concerns over T.C.M. The social side and the science side. Okay?"
"I don't know that much about Chinese medicine," Sally began. "In fact, I know about as much about it as I do about nuclear physics."
"Not a problem." Jill Day directed a relentless smile at the waverer. "Don will handle all the technical stuff. Your role is mainly as a facilitator. Don will contact you for a strategy and planning session when I've put him in the picture."
"Right," Sally said cautiously.
"Later this afternoon, probably." Jill Day repeated her smile then strode away to organize someone else.
"Bollocks!" Sally Lee muttered. "And you lot thought you were just winding me up when you said they'd make me the Chinese medicine correspondent."
"They've not," Trevor Mercur pointed out. "You're a facilitator, not a correspondent."
"Some people wouldn't know job security if it bit their leg off," the writer scoffed.
"And some people's ancestors came to England from Shanghai not long after the Boxer Revolution was put down," Sally Lee protested. "Some people are as English as you are."
"Some people have got a name that's more English than his," Andras Ektors pointed out.
"And if she's looking for someone who speaks Chinese, she can forget it," Sally added. "I can do a bit of restaurant Cantonese but not Mandarin."
"You'll be telling us you can't do kung fu next," scoffed Trevor Mercur.
"I keep telling you," Sally protested, "I'm English, not Chinese."
"I bet you can't even play cricket." Mercur pursued the logic of his point relentlessly.
"If she can't play cricket," laughed the writer, "that proves she's English."
"I don't see what your problem is, Sal," Andras Ektors added. "They give some jobs to women and others to blokes. What's so different about handing out jobs based on ethnic origin instead of gender?"
"I keep telling her that," the writer mentioned. "She should make the most of her assets. But being a bloody woman, she doesn't listen."
"Yeah, it's just another job," Sally told herself. "And being a woman, especially an ethnically Chinese woman, I can hack it."
"Now say it like you mean it, Sal," laughed Trevor Mercur.
The writer was deep into the task of doing a line-by-line proof-reading of the latest version of Jackie Sydenham's novel when he received an unexpected phone call from Pierson Day. The Feck-Monster wanted the writer to come in at six-thirty the next morning and he took great pleasure in refusing to say why.
After ringing off, the writer resumed his task of marking infrequent errors with a thick-pointed blue marker pen. Jackie had used red and then green ball-point for previous sessions with the hard copy. She had come to agree with the writer that proof-reading needs a hard copy rather than images on a monitor screen.
All was revealed the next morning, when the writer put in an appearance in a newsroom still manned by a skeleton overnight staff. Detective Sergeant Crosston had delivered the promised tip-off. The arrests would begin at eight a.m. and Pierson Day wanted the writer and a photographer on the spot when they happened. Sergeant Crosston had provided a schedule so that the reporting team would be able to arrive at each destination independently of the police task force.
The writer talked to a cassette recorder while his photographer, Dennis, blasted film past his telephoto lens. Getting pictures at the Ottral estate was a problem due to the distance of the fine old house from the main road. But Dennis was ready for it. He stood on the boot of the car, wearing felt overboots to protect the paintwork, and rested a small tripod on the top of a handy stretch of wall.
After the ritual of seeking an official comment and letting the senior police officer brush them off, the writer and his photographer returned to base. Trevor Mercur, concrete boot and all, would be attending the mid-morning briefing by the police press office. His runners had to brief him beforehand.
Dennis disappeared off to get his pictures processed. The writer headed for the small conference room to deliver his report to Trevor Mercur and Pierson Day.
"So you didn't get yourself arrested?" the Feck-Monster asked when the writer arrived and investigated the thermal jug of coffee.
"We were very circumspect, as befitting members of Her Majesty's Press," the writer told him. "Only we got a bit of a shock when they put the handcuffs on the mayor's sister."
"Even when it all started at her home?" scoffed Trevor Mercur.
"We assumed the mayor was hiding out at his sister's place," the writer replied.
"So you hadn't worked out that Verne was the master criminal and her brother Dark was just a dupe?" the Feck-Meister asked through a smirk.
"It's not a scenario that I considered as likely, no," the writer admitted. "Even after the coppers added two female Ottrals to their collection."
"It was all girls together and making the men jump to their agenda," Trevor Mercur remarked.
"Yeah, right," said the writer, still not convinced.
"Okay, let's hear your recordings then we can get them transcribed," said Pierson Day, jumping from amused to 'in charge'.
The writer played his tapes, put them through the automatic voice recognition machine and corrected the transcripts. Then he went for some breakfast. He was now out of the loop and others were putting the finishing touches to the story behind the arrests, which would appear in the next edition of the Sentinel & Advertiser.
Either as a reward for a job well done, or to get him out of the way, Pierson Day sent the writer down to the archive to do a morning's cross-indexing when he returned from breakfast.
Mr. Cherek Ved listened patiently to the accounts from his contacts, read all of the relevant case papers, including those which the police and Home Office did not wish to become common knowledge, and weighed the facts.
At the end of this lengthy process, he found himself still unable to believe that the Ottral and Corrigan women were to blame for the criminal conspiracies. Neither was this a conclusion which was supported by the evidence.
Mr. Ved remained firmly convinced that 'Dodgy' Corrigan and the male Ottrals had fed their sadly gullible women to a Convenience. They had let the women believe that they had been running the show so that the men could enjoy the fruits of the crimes and evade the blame.
Jackie Sydenham blew out a scornful breath as she finished reading the final paragraph. "Who's a sexist pig, then?" she remarked.
"Think about it," the writer invited. "Don't you think this is a better story? The criminals get busted and the forces of law and order enjoy a triumph. But the real criminals get away with it. Don't you think that's the way the universe really operates? The more guilty you are, the less likely you are to be caught?"
"There is a certain seductive logic to your argument," Jackie admitted.
"So it goes, to quote Slaughterhouse 5," the writer added. "Or maybe she's just going along with my daft ideas because she wants to keep in with me. At least until I've finished proof-reading her book."
"Some people couldn't function without a good conspiracy theory," scoffed Jackie.
Jeff Boon ambushed the writer as he was returning to his work station to collect his jacket after a highly productive morning in the archive. "How intellectually gifted are the average punters reading a crime story?" he asked. "Because I came across a good one this morning."
"Before you get too involved," the writer pointed out, "they've sacked me as crime correspondent again."
"Oh, well, see what you make of it. And I quote: 'The killer's name was Gallia. This was clear because of the card propped neatly against the victim's discarded left shoe reading Gallia Fecit and bearing the date. As for the body, it had been divided into three parts and the remains had been left in three sites – head, torso, and arms and legs with the left shoe'."
"I'm not sure our average reader knows that much Latin," the writer pointed out. "And wasn't it Gaul that was divided into three parts? Gallia was the victim, not the perpetrator."
"So what do you expect from a Yank source, accuracy?" Jeff Boon asked with a shrug. "But I admit, Romani fecit would be more accurate."
"Or Roma fecit for a singular killer".
"In spite of all that, it's quite good, though, isn't it?"
"Possibly worth recycling for the three people who'll get it. Although you'd have a hell of a job getting it past the Feck."
"Oh, well. I'm off racing this afternoon. Are you doing anything interesting?"
"Lunch with Sally then lurking around here."
"Unwinding after the triumphs of the morning?"
"Straw poll," said the writer. "Do you believe all these women set it up or do you believe the mayor and the male Ottrals are getting away with it after stitching up a bunch of gullible women?"
"That's what you think?" Jeff Boon asked with a frown. "I suppose it could happen. Although, I should whisper it in case the libel lawyers hear you," he added with a grin.
In the middle of Thursday morning, the writer ran into Jackie at his usual coffee machine.
"Thanks for the rest of the hard copy," she said.
The writer had delivered the bulky envelope of paper to the archive before Jackie's arrival.
"There's not that much to do, you'll be pleased to hear," he told Jackie.
"Good. Isn't it amazing how you always find something?"
"A law of the universe, I think."
"Yeah, right! Who's Jill Day, by the way? The Feck's sister?"
"A pain in the poncho with more power than she can handle. And no relation to the Feck, surprisingly enough. Why?"
"I heard someone say she's been getting phone threats. Something to do with the stuff the paper printed after the mayor's sister was arrested."
"What, you mean they got the wrong Day? Oh, well, I don't suppose you can expect Annoyed of Chedney to be too bothered about details."
"I hear the TV mob weren't best pleased that their colleagues over here didn't bother tipping them off about the big story. They didn't like having to use stills of the arrests taken by the Advertiser's photographer instead of video footage."
The writer shrugged. "An exclusive isn't something you share. And you can be sure they'd never bring us in on a breaking story."
Two young men in what looked like interview suits arrived at the coffee machine. "So if you had to kill yourself, what would you do?" one of them asked, clearly continuing a conversation.
"I'd find a nice, tall building and jump off the top floor," his companion replied. "And if I could land on some miserable bastard of a vegie neofeminist, that would be one hell of a big bonus."
The writer and Jackie moved away with their plastic cups, trying not to laugh aloud.
"I hope they weren't talking about Ginnie White," the writer murmured as Jackie was about to take the stairs down to the archive.
"If she's half as tough as you make out," Jackie told him, "that weedy little sod would just bounce off."
Dear Diary, life is settling back into what passes for normal around here. The Feck has given me another assignment - industry in and around Chedney. My instructions are to go back in jumps of 50 years and compare and contrast. I am now wondering if this is a feature or the build up to another revenge job.
The Feck seems to have gone from almost-affable to routine-macho now that his campaign against the mayor's sister has reached a successful conclusion. I am now back to being a 'feckan waste of space' at times, a status which I was excused when I was a valued co-conspirator in his dastardly plot against the Corrigans and the Ottrals.
The Feck once told me: 'Our job is to report the news, not create it.' If he ever says that again, I shall take great pleasure in reminding him that it helps a hell of a lot if you know in advance what you're likely to be reporting. So you know who to keep an eye on as a candidate for pulling strokes.
I have been toying with the idea of making out that I have been head-hunted - that I have been offered a great job and I can't decide if I'm going to work out my notice or just disappear. But being a basically idle sod, I shall probably just file and forget the idea. Or use it in a novel or short story.
The writer became aware of female laughter on his left. "I like your new sig file," Sally Lee told him.
The writer looked into her territory to read the message on her monitor screen.
|Are we doing lunch?|
This signature does not constitute any sort of guarantee of accuracy, nor does the over- signed accept any legal responsibilities expressed or implied here or elsewhere in this document.
Something happening on his own monitor screen registered on the writer's peripheral vision. The pop-up box was back.
"The way things are going, I reckon I'm going to need to add one of those disclaimers they put on emails in case they get sent to the wrong person," the writer said as he pressed Ctrl-Alt-H to hide the intrusion.
"I can just see them letting you clog up the system with one-sentence messages with a 500-word disclaimer stuck on them," Sally told him.
"I reckon he's a subversive," Andras Ektors said after leaving his work station to read the message on Sally's screen. "Trying to destroy the workplace we know and love."
"Are you allowed to just go and read other people's messages?" Sally said indignantly.
"Sadiators," Ektors quoted, returning to his own messages. "The antidote to Gladiators. They have names like Rat Fink, Pussycat and Lemming."
"Is that the latest brilliant-idea message?" scoffed the writer.
"Here's another good one," Ektors said after studying his next message. "I'm copying it to you now."
"Don't bother," said the writer, knowing that it was too late.
|You Now Have 2 Unread Messages|
The writer clicked on the OK button then expanded the message box to 90% of the screen width.
|Nostradamus wrote a verse [Century II, V. 24] which refers to someone called Hister. Some historians explain this by saying that Hister is an old name for the Lower Danube in Romania and Wallachia, and the verse really refers to Vlad Dracula.|
In fact, if a touch typist types a capital H then an i, then transposes the t and the l and also types an s instead of the l - by using the third finger of the left hand instead of the third finger of the right hand - and then completes the name with a correctly typed e and an r, what comes out on the page is: Hister.
Far fetched? No, because your author has actually witnessed a touch-typist go to type Hitler and finish up with Hister.
Some might argue that the typewriter wasn't invented until long after Michel de Nôtre Dame was dust. But if one accepts that a 16th Century mystic could see into the future, why is it unreasonable to assume that he encrypted a name in terms of typing errors which can be made on a 19th Century English keyboard?
© Robt. Brigan
Bringing the facts they don't want you to know.
"Bringing the bullshit that no one wants to know," the writer remarked.
"The feck's all this?" a familiar voice demanded behind the writer.
"The person opening this message accepts no responsibility for its content," Andras Ektors said.
"If some people don't have enough to do, they can spend an afternoon in the archive." Pierson Day strode away to call Robert Brigan a feckan waste of space before condemning him to a spell of cross-indexing.
"Sounds like Robby's going to need a fortifying lunch," laughed Sally. "And I'm on for lunch if we're going to our favourite Italian place, Marin."
"It's a date. Well, a virtual one," the writer added.
Dear Diary, I feel another novel coming on. It is the curse of the writer that we are forever scribbling ideas on bits of paper, typing them into a computer and then spending hour after hour sorting the fragments into a coherent order. And, annoyingly, there are always brilliant ideas left over when the novel is finished.
Some bits and pieces just refuse to fit in. So they get dumped in an ideas file to mature or fester. A surprising number see the light of day again on a printed page other than the one intended. The first rule of writing is that 'anything recorded can be recycled'.
So it goes.