13 Mart is jet-lagged, Billy is drawn in, Evie looks worse


e6.3. Mart lay in bed, trying to sleep. His body clock was way out of kilter. Beside him, his wife of thirty years snored gently.

[this is excessively slow tweeting–]

e6.4 He wondered what he was getting into. He didn’t really even know who he was working for. He had inherited the job.

e6.5 His predecessor had had a coronary on a Florida golf course, and Mart had got a call asking if he could ‘tidy up things for Sly’.

e6.6 Things had gone on from there. It was never clear which of the many official, or not-quite-official agencies paid him.

e6.7 Mart thought of it as the Department of Embarrassing little Mistakes. Normally the work involved paying sums of money

e6.8 Maybe there was a Vietnam Vet with a story that would be a little awkward. Or someone in Panama. Or Chile. Even Japan.

e6.9 Some money in exchange for a nice confidentiality agreement usually did the trick. Sometimes Mart was given watching briefs.

e7.0 Scotland was one. He’d inherited it from Sly. Sly had inherited it from someone else. About thirty years of ‘keep an eye open’.

e7.1 It was never quite clear what he was expected to keep an eye open for. ‘Any hint that something unusual has been found.’

e7.2 That appeared to have been standing instructions for the last three decades. Mart had ignored them, got on with other things.

e7.3 Then, about three years ago, he had got a call from someone called Sue. “Mart, you heard of Billy Killins?” “Vaguely.”

e7.4 “He writes crime. His latest book is just out. You need to read it, I think. Look at the story ‘Among the trees.'” Mart looked.

e7.5 A guy found some diamonds under a tree in Scotland. He was murdered. There was a chase. Smart detective work pinned the murderer to Antwerp

e7.6 He was arrested; the diamonds had vanished. Mart made nothing of it. He rang back. “You want me to look for diamonds?

e7.7  Jeeze, Sue, it’s just a story.”
“That’s probably right Mart, but just take a little look, would you?”
So he’d found someone.

e7.8 Sent him to Scotland on an expenses-paid holiday. The report was negative. Mart suspected the guy had spent his time in bars.

e7.9. He’d passed on the report and forgotten it. Then the office had gotten interested in Blue. Something about Mexico.

e8.0 And then, suddenly, Scotland again. About two weeks ago. Sue had been quite clear for once. “Mart, we have info about a drug.

e8.1 We don’t know exactly what it is, but we have concerns. There may be – connections. That story in Scotland, you remember?

e8.2″The one about the diamonds?”
“That one, yes. One of our people who writes for the New Yorker interviewed Mr Killins about that.

e8.3 Mr Killins was clear he got the idea for that story from a death in a place called Newcastleton. There was nothing suspicious…

e8.4 …about it, he said. Our guy asked him where he got the idea of the diamonds under the tree. Mr Killin’s reply was interesting.

e8.5 He said that the people who told him about the death, said there were rumours that the victim had found something.”

e8.6 “But not diamonds.” Mart was sometimes quick on the uptake. “No Mart, not diamonds. Get someone there. Someone intelligent.

e8.7 We need to know what’s going on. If need be, we may have to make an offer. But not without facts. Get the facts.” Sue rang off.

e8.8 Luckily, Adam had pitched up in London on yet another of the trips he made for his shopaholic wife. Adam did a good job.

e8.9 He was almost worth the retainer Mart paid him. It took a chunk of Mart’s budget, but Adam was good at smoothing things.

e9.0 And now Adam was out of action. Mart had never met Brennen. Adam said he’d met him in Manilla, and he was ‘an old hand’.

e9.1 Mart didn’t know what that meant. He got out of bed. Went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, looked for earplugs.

e9.2 Hell, it was two in the morning, and he felt like eating breakfast. So, Blue was dead; Evie was…what? Gone wild?

e9.3 There was a murder in Scotland, and some guy called Uncanny Death distributing Killin’s story. Mart went to the fridge.

e9.4 Nothing. Martha had forgotten the groceries again. She lived on air when he was away. Spent her time on cat-lovers’ blogs,

e9.5 writing comments about fur balls and diseases of the pads. Mart found some peanuts in a cupboard. They would have to do.

e9.6 He took the peanuts over to the PC. He called up #uncannydeath on Twitter. Mostly crap. ‘What do roadside flowers say?’

e9.7 ‘How should I know?’ Marty asked himself. Bits of peanut were getting into the keyboard. Then he saw Billy’s tweet.

e9.8 ‘Glad you had time for gardening’ #uncannydeath’ Mart put the peanuts down. He considered. Contacting Billy might be wrong.

e9.9 He liked working under the surface. But he had no leads, one man on the ground that he didn’t even know.

e10.0 And something – what? that appeared to be growing minute by minute. And no one had even mentioned a drug.

e10.1 He tipped the last of the packet into his mouth. ‘@killinswrites,’ he typed. ‘I need help re Uncannydeath. Pls call.”

e10.2 He added his cell number, and sent the tweet by Direct Message. He scoured the Scottish papers for a minute or two.

e10.3 Most of them led on the murder at Broxburn Plants. They didn’t have a lot of detail. He guessed the police were being cagey.

e10.4 He called up Google and typed ‘Drug found in Scottish forest.’ The top hit came back: ‘List of unsolved murders in the UK.’

e10.5 “Dear God,” Mart said aloud. “This is just too much.” Martha’s snores echoed across the apartment. “I don’t even like peanuts”

e10.6 He closed down the computer, returned to the bathroom, brushed his teeth again, put in the earplugs and climbed into bed.

e10.7 He closed his eyes. Maybe it would soon be day.<


49.1 Jill liked thinking about the mystery of Billy’s story and the murder in Scotland–it effectively blocked thoughts of Blue’s death.

49.2 She also liked sending the information about #uncannydeath to her dad. It might impress him, and  it was nice to get his attention.

49.3 If he were a different dad, an adventurous one, he might even help. But he was mostly just support to her mom–a great puzzle to Jill.

49.4 But there were bigger puzzles. As she walked home from school on Tuesday she thought back to the dead cat under the séance table.

49.5 So long ago it seemed.Then Blue’s death, and then a crime tangle in Scotland that had somehow become linked to one of Billy’s stories.

49.6 At home she found Iris pacing the kitchen with a spoon in her hand in front of a flour canister, an egg carton & a cube of butter.

49.7 Iris stopped mid-pace. “Now he’s done it,” she said. “How can he be so old and stupid? Honestly I believe he’s lost his mind.”

49.8 It had to be Wendell. No one else made Iris hysterical. Jill dropped her backpack and sat down in a kitchen chair.  “What?” she said.

49.9 Iris leaned back against the counter. “You will not believe it,” she said. Jill waited. “He is moving that woman into his apartment.”

50.0 Jill had guessed Iris was over-reacting to something, but this time maybe not. “You don’t mean Evie?” she said, wide-eyed.

50.1 “Yes Evie,” Iris said. “See? See? I swear to God, if Mama were alive she would have him committed to a hospital…”

50.2 “I have been doing cooking therapy,” Iris said. “But it isn’t working–as cooking or therapy either one.” She sat down.

50.3 “And you know what else? Evie says she was dating Blue, before.” Then Iris put a hand over her mouth as she saw the shock on Jill’s face.

50.4 In a moment Jill gathered up her backpack. “Wendell is a grownup,” she muttered, and she went to her room.

50.5 Iris was sickened by adding to Jill’s hurt. She closed her eyes. Where to turn? Her eyes opened and she knew. She would call Natasha.

50.6 Jill plopped on her bed and wrote a text to Billy. “FYI: Evie dated Blue. Now she is moving in with Wendell. Uncanny stupidity.”


50.7 Billy held an antique china cup of cappuccino. He sat at his desk in the early morning light and considered various communications.

50.8 Jill’s note from the night before was in his mind like a sliver in the skin. Evie and  Blue. He added it to a page of notes.

50.9 He found a Twitter direct message asking for a call, for some “help re Uncannydeath.” Billy was fascinated. He sipped the coffee.

51.0 The message did not have the bold character of messages from @uncannydeath. This was some new, separate person.

51.1 Billy wrote a direct message back, from his computer, carefully. “What do you need, and why should I help you?”

51.2 How lovely, he thought. It felt rather as if his life were melting into his fiction. He smiled. Very entertaining if not productive.

51.3 Next he emailed Detective Brown at the Newport Police. “We need to have lunch, Zach.” That should do. He looked out the window.

51.4 The wind was still, and the gray morning sky was bright. He found a long scarf and his wool overcoat and he left the warm house.

51.5 Outside he followed the path, down the long flight of stone steps and onto the rain-wet sand. He continued out to the water’s edge.

51.6 He walked south, into the slight wind, as he walked he tried to recall every detail of  the story he had heard in Scotland years ago.


51.7 Wednesday afternoon Detective Zachary Brown sat across a desk from Jeremy Anderson, the tech expert for the Newport investigation.

51.8 Jeremy had requested the meeting, and now he was moving through documents on his iphone. Zachary watched, and felt old.

51.9 Jeremy was thin and his dark hair fell into his eyes. He struggled with unclear skin and didn’t look like he worked out in any gym.

52.0 He simply looked seventeen, but was a wizard when it came to unwinding the invisible trails and canyons and tunnels in the digital world.

52.1 “I went over his machine,” Jeremy said. Other people would have a spiral notebook, Zach thought. Somehow the phone irritated him.

52.2 “I hope you have this information someplace besides that thing,” he said. Jeremy looked up. “Oh sure,” he said. “All locked up.”

52.3 Jeremy continued. “So I went in and found a shitload of stuff that wasn’t apparent, stuff someone thought they deleted.”

52.4 He carried nothing but his phone. “Where is this shitload?” Zach asked. Jeremy’s hand was a blur, moving over the phone’s keyboard.

52.5 “I’m just sending it to you,” Jeremy said. “Why didn’t you simply BRING it?” Zach thought how paper notes were really nice.

52.6 “Waste of paper,” Jeremy said, then, “It’s done–in your email, all of it, –in some cases summaries. Emails, lists, & some kinda story.”

52.7 Zach sat back in his chair. “Did you read it?” He asked. “Not much,” Jeremy said. “But I found it. Wasn’t easy. Took fifteen minutes.”

52.8 “So Jeremy,” Zach said slowly. “Why did you want to see me? Why not just email me this stuff from someplace besides my office?”

52.9 Jeremy looked uncomfortable. He put the phone in a pocket and sat back. “I just wanted to say something. It’s something—intuitive.”

53.0 “Intuitive?” Zach wondered that such a word was a part of Jeremy’s vocabulary. “Yeah,” Jeremy said, “and I did look at the stuff, some.”

53.1 “It’s just that there is stuff in there, weird crap for a high school English teacher. And that woman, Evie, in her emails…”

53.2 “I just want to say that I think this case has some real questions Detective Brown. And to make sure you comb through this deleted stuff.”

53.3 Zach tapped his fingers on the desk and looked at Jeremy. Just when you thought you knew someone. “You busy on anything else?” he asked.

53.4 Jeremy’s eyebrows rose briefly and he shook his head. Zach went on. “You want to do the analysis here, on the stuff you found?”

53.5 Owen wouldn’t care, and it looked like Jeremy already had a start on this. He could tell by the response that he was right.

53.6 Jeremy left looking like a miner who knew where to dig. Immediately Zach’s phone rang. It was Emma. “Daddy, don’t forget to bring home marshmallows.”

53.7 “Why Emma, you know Daddy never forgets stuff.” He said it just to hear her laugh. His marriage was rockier daily, and Emma more beloved.

53.8 Often he felt Kristin was baiting him, seeking a fight. Maybe she had met someone else. The worst was that he didn’t much care.

53.9 He looked over his notes of the investigation. Evie Lane’s fingerprints had been found everywhere in Blue’s apartment..

54.0 And Evie’s emails were one of the things deleted on Blue’s machine. Evie came up in every part of the case. He would do the interview.

54.1 His desk phone rang. It was Melanie, from the State Crime Lab. “Just a quick call Zach,” she said. “We didn’t find a thing in your guy, just the booze.”

54.2 She was smiling, he could hear it. “I’ll send the report to the Medical Examiner, but I wanted you to know too.” “Thanks Mel,” he said.

54.3 “If you want, I can go over the report with you,” she said. “anytime.” Zach found that he was smiling too.

54.4 “Thanks Melanie,” he said. “I’ll let you know if I get a chance to come over to Salem.” “You do that,” she said, and the called ended.



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