by Bill- 1998-08-09
"Everything you've ever wanted to know about anything."
On December 3, Diane of Hayward, CA had back surgery done on her back (always a good place to have back surgery). And, apparently, everything went well and she is now convalescing at home. Candy and flowers are now being accepted.
"I like flowers," says Diane. "They taste a lot better than people give them credit for."
Credence, Lucy's female Rottweiler, earned distinction recently during "dope dog" training by sniffing out and seizing a glass jar of rock cocaine and then running with it. Unfortunately, she then dropped and broke the jar, scattering cocaine and pieces of glass all over the floor. Lucy had to grab Credence quickly before she could ingest any cocaine. You see, once a dog ingests cocaine, it becomes hooked for life, and it'll do anything for that next "fix." Thus, Lucy probably saved Credence from a thousand-dollar-a-day coke habit that surely would have ruined her life.
[What's with these dog stories?]
Anyway, Lucy's dog "Coyote" broke her leg recently while trying to jump the front yard fence. Lucy had to take the stupid dog to the vet and have a cast put on the leg.
"Everyone is welcome and encouraged to sign Coyote's cast!" says Lucy.
With Dr. & Mr. Holmes
We don't go to the movies that much because they are too expensive and the stories are stupid and predictable. We suggest that you do the same. However, if you must go to the movies, "Backdraft" is not too bad. It is about firemen, I mean firepersons (firepeople?). And, if you have ever wanted to experience being in a burning building but didn't do it because you thought you might die, this movie will help you resolve that problem (although it is a pretty stupid problem to have and you really don't deserve any help with it).
We rent a lot of movies because it is much cheaper, you have a much wider selection, and you can stop the movie anytime you want and go take a [use the bathroom]. Sometimes I feel that my life is like a movie, and I would like to stop it for a while to get a beer or stop and take a . . . but I digress.
There are many movies available on videocassette, from old silent movies and musicals, to heartrending love stories and biblical epics. Why anyone would want to rent one of these types of movies is beyond us. Don't expect us to discuss any of them in this column. We are chiefly interested in two types of movies: the type exemplified by a lone wronged hero wiping out the opposition with endless rounds of machine gun fire, or the movies that have a group of teenagers in a haunted house being killed off one by one in gruesome fashion by some supernatural force that turns out to be just the mad, deformed twin of the last surviving teenager. From time to time, however, we can also enjoy a movie that is just plain weird. So, now that you know what to expect . . .
"Jacob's Ladder" came and went a few months ago with little notice, but it is excellent. It is about a Vietnam vet who starts having horrible visions. It has a surprisingly spiritual (if you'll pardon the expression) bent to it, and some intriguing twists built it about the nature of reality. Not for kiddies, obviously. A movie to make one think, if you can believe it. Not the sort of thing we usually rent. In other words, a good movie.
"Heathers" is a very funny black comedy that, in the end, is about adolescent angst. That sounds stupid and boring, but it isn't. It includes several teenagers murdered in very picturesque fashion. If you hated high school (and you did, or should have), you will thoroughly enjoy this flick.
Among "classic" movies (i.e., those that have been at the video stores for over a year) we recommend "Basket Case" for fans of campy horror, and "Hellraiser" for fans of straight horror movies. A note on movie picking: if you see at least one sequel to a movie, it's a good bet that the original was somehow special. "Basket Case" has an unusual plot and a lovely claymation monster. "Hellraiser" is one of the most artistic horror movies within our experience, and should not be missed by any true fan.
Films to be avoided: "The Dead Pit," "Invaders From Mars," "Swamp Thing," and "Warlock."
"I want to know when Doug is going to do a film on one of our Scrabble games. I want it recorded that I am the family Scrabble champion! Anyone can play volleyball." — Lucy
Leaky, California: a small town in California's central valley; a town so small it's not even on the map; a town given its name by founders with either a great sense of humor or a definite mean streak — not that there's much difference. Leaky, as the huge billboard along the highway will boast, is the "Brussels Sprouts Capital of the World!" And, typical of many "big valley" towns, Leaky had, pardon the expression, sprouted up along the state's main highway artery primarily as a "pit stop" for travellers.
The fact that Leaky had a newspaper of its own was rather rare, given the fact that the official population of Leaky was 93 people. It was a weekly publication, though it would have sufficed as a bi-weekly, there was so little news. The name of the paper? The Leaky Weekly, of course.
The day that Betsy Talbot, office manager of The Leaky Weekly, broke the office coffee pot is a day she will never forget. It was 8 a.m., sharp, when she arrived for work. It was 8:07, according to the digital clock on her desk, when she broke the coffee pot. She was carrying it to the restroom to fill it with water when she found the advice columnist of The Leaky Weekly, Larry Askis, at the door of the restroom. He was on the floor, with his right arm clutching the knob of the restroom door. Betsy would have assumed Larry was drunk again. And she would have gone into one of her speeches on the evils of alcohol and the need for professional conduct in the workplace, as she did every time she found Larry Askis in such a position. But today was different. The columnist's hand seemed glued to the doorknob. He was not moving. Nor was he making a sound. And there was a knife plunged to its hilt in Larry's back. There was blood everywhere.
And that's when Betsy dropped and broke the coffee pot.
Charles Foster Crane, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Leaky Weekly, anguished over the fact that if it were not for the first two letters of his last name he could have called himself Charles Foster Kane, or "Citizen Kane," his hero. He was beginning to worry that his dreams of journalistic glory and fame were slipping from his grasp. He was fifty-three years old now, and the men in his family had a tendency to die young. His father, two uncles and a grandfather had all been murdered by the age of fifty. Hardly natural causes, but not a good family track record for longevity.
When Crane heard the news about Larry Askis over the police scanner that morning, he knew it was just the kind of story his newspaper needed. He immediately called his printing press operator, Running Bear Johnson, waking him up, and ordered him to report to work at once so they could put out a special edition. Crane could hardly wait to get to the office.
The town sheriff, Carl Hummer, showed up at the offices of The Leaky Weekly in his patrol car shortly after receiving the call from his dispatcher. His newly hired deputy, Drucilla Lee, pulled up a few seconds later in her own car. Dirk Richie, staff photographer of the Weekly, was in front of the Weekly's office and about to go inside when the sheriff and Deputy Lee arrived.
"Don't go in there!" Drucilla barked at Dirk as she jumped out of her car.
"Why not?" Dirk asked.
Drucilla ignored the question. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"I work here," Dirk replied.
"It's just as well that you're here, Dirk," Sheriff Hummer interrupted. "We need someone to photograph the body."
"Body?" Dirk said.
"There's been a murder," Drucilla said gravely, watching Dirk's face for his reaction. She had been trained to look for a suspect's — and everyone was a suspect — initial reaction to shocking news such as she had just given. She was eager to see if she could detect something incriminating in Dirk's face. But Dirk only raised his eyebrows, grabbed a hold of his ever-present camera, and beat the sheriff and his deputy through the door into the office.
Once inside, as Sheriff Hummer and Deputy Drucilla hovered over Larry Askis's body, Dirk took photos of the crime scene and everything else in sight. When Charles Foster Crane stormed into the office, Dirk took pictures of that, too. Drucilla wondered if Dirk went anywhere without his camera. Probably even showered with it, she supposed. Then she wondered what Dirk looked like in the shower, but was immediately repulsed by such a thought.
"I heard the news over the police scanner," Crane bellowed as he barged through the door. "Where's Running Bear?"
"Probably still asleep," Dirk replied.
"No," Crane said. "I called him the minute I heard about Larry. We need to get out a special edition! This is the biggest story of the year! Where's the body?"
"Over here," the sheriff replied from the hallway. Crane followed the sheriff's voice. Upon seeing Larry's body for the first time, Crane stopped cold and leaned against the doorway. He had never seen a dead body before. But, after his initial hesitation, the morbid curiosity of the true reporter came through and Crane moved toward the body. He bent down and reached out to touch it.
"Don't touch him!" Sheriff Hummer shouted. "We haven't dusted for fingerprints yet." Turning to his deputy, Hummer said, "Dru, did you bring the dusting kit?"
"Right here, Carl," Drucilla proudly produced a small zippered leather bag.
Dirk took pictures throughout "the dusting of the fingerprints." Once Drucilla had finished dusting, she instructed Dirk to make extra copies of the pictures for her. Dirk stared at her for a moment, then shrugged and went about the task of rewinding his used-up roll of film and inserting a new one.
When Running Bear Johnson wandered into the office, Crane immediately shouted at him. "What the hell took you so long?"
"Traffic, C.F.," Running Bear explained calmly.
"Traffic?" Crane spat. "We don't have traffic here!"
"School bus, C.F.," Running Bear explained with a sly smile. "It's illegal to pass a school bus when the red lights are flashing."
From her position next to the body, Drucilla Lee turned and smiled wide at Running Bear's understanding of and obvious respect for the law. Charles Foster Crane ignored Deputy Lee and barked at Running Bear, "You're calling me 'C.F.' now? Whatever happened to 'Mr. Crane?'"
Running Bear grinned and replied, "Whatever did happen to Mr. Crane?"
"Very funny," Crane said. "Why aren't you warming up the presses! We've got a special edition to get out!" Running Bear gave Crane a mock salute and disappeared into the press room.
Crane turned his attention to his receptionist. "Betsy, call the entire staff. Get them down here now! What the hell am I paying them for, anyway? This is a newspaper, damn it!"
He finally had a real story to report and he did not want to blow it. Too bad Larry Askis had to die to provide such a story. But Crane believed that Larry Askis would have been proud to provide such a great story.
Finally, the coroner arrived and Betsy Talbot directed him to the body. A few minutes later, Boris Dutikov, a Russian immigrant and The Leaky Weekly's sports reporter, wandered into the office. Betsy shouted out, "The rest of the staff has just arrived, Mr. Crane!"
Several minutes later, Drucilla Lee escorted the coroner and the dead body out the door. Sheriff Hummer, with a grim face, watched them depart. After a moment of appropriate grimness, Hummer approached Betsy. "Do you mind if I ask you a few questions, Betsy?"
"Yes, but go ahead, anyway," Betsy snapped. Betsy could not stand the sight of Carl Hummer ever since he'd arrested her for indecent exposure. It wasn't "indecent exposure" at all, she explained at the time. She was merely crouching behind a bush one night in the park because the public restrooms were locked and there was not another restroom within three miles. She simply couldn't wait. And Hummer arrested her. The "law is clear in this situation," he had explained to her.
Now oblivious to Betsy's smoldering wrath, Hummer proceeded with his murder investigation. He asked her the routine questions: What time did she arrive at the office that morning; what were her actions from the moment she left her house to the moment she found Mr. Askis's body; had she ever had sex with the deceased. Routine questions.
Betsy gave all the right responses, Hummer scribbled a few notes, then moved on to question the rest of the Weekly staff.
"Mr. Dutikov," Hummer exhaled the words as he came to the sports reporter's desk. "I couldn't help but notice you were the last one to arrive this morning. Would you mind explaining this to me?"
"Well," Boris replied in his broken English. "I show up exactly 9:15. When I get here I see everyone else already here."
Hummer nodded and jotted something down on his notepad. "I'll get back to you later," he said.
Hummer next questioned Mr. Crane. When Crane first arrived that morning, he had mentioned that he'd heard the news over the police scanner. Hummer could not recall ever mentioning the murder over the radio. He was fairly sure that all he had said was that he was responding to a call from The Leaky Weekly's office. He mentioned this discrepancy to Crane.
"Oh, well," Crane replied smoothly. "I must have assumed there was a murder."
"Uh, huh," Hummer replied, nodding thoughtfully. "A bit of friendly advice, Mr. Crane. Never assume anything. Assuming makes an ass out of you and me." When Crane only glared at him, thinking he had just been insulted, Hummer continued: "Get it? It makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me.' Pretty clever, huh?"
"Yeah," Crane agreed. "Clever. But if you don't mind, I have a special edition to get out."
"By all means," Hummer said with a wave of his hand. "Don't mind me."
"I've been trying not to," Crane replied under his breath.
"Huh?" Hummer said.
Hummer made a mental note to speak with Crane again later. For now, however, Running Bear Johnson was next in line for questioning. Sheriff Hummer and Running Bear were very familiar with one another. It was Running Bear's long-standing contention that the land now occupied by the town of Leaky was, by rights, the property of the "Wapwah Indian Nation." And, as the last known surviving Wapwah, the land, therefore, belonged to Running Bear personally. He regularly printed petitions and "decrees" and posted them all over town, including the inside of the mayor's and Sheriff Hummer's offices. Sheriff Hummer had lost track of the number of citations he had given Running Bear over the years for "unauthorized promulgation."
As if reprimanding a naughty child who had been scolded time and again, yet never seemed to learn, Sheriff Hummer now sighed and said, "Running Bear, is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
"Yes," Running Bear replied with a smile. "But now is not the time."
"This is serious," Hummer huffed.
"Okay," Running Bear said. "What do you want to know?"
"Was Larry Askis aware of the fact that you are an Indian?"
Running Bear rolled his eyes. "I'm not an 'Indian.' I'm a Native American."
"Whatever," Hummer replied, short on patience. "Was Larry aware of this?"
"I can't see how he wouldn't be," Running Bear replied.
"Were you aware that Larry Askis was a member of the Ku Klux Klan?"
"He was?" Running Bear was shocked.
In fact, Larry Askis was not a member of the KKK, and Sheriff Hummer knew it. The sheriff was simply using an old ploy he'd learned at the Academy: Give your suspect something to dislike about the victim — something despicable, if possible — in hopes that the suspect will, in an emotional outburst, reveal his true feelings about the victim and, thus, implicate himself or at least give you an excuse to throw him in jail. Sheriff Hummer had never actually seen this tactic work, but it seemed like a good idea.
Sheriff Hummer, however, had not done his homework, and Running Bear soon brought this to light.
"Wasn't Larry half Jewish?" Running Bear asked.
Hummer squinted his eyes, as he always did when confused. "So, what's your point?" he asked.
"Well, seeing as how the KKK hate just about everyone who isn't white and Protestant Christian, it seems highly unlikely that Larry Askis, being half Jewish, would be a member of such an organization."
At a loss for both words and any idea of what to do next, Sheriff Hummer turned beat red, puffed out his chest, and stomped out of The Leaky Weekly offices. He had never conducted a murder investigation before, and he didn't like the way this one was going.
Stay tuned for the next episode!
[If you have any ideas for what should happen next, please let us know!]
Michael of Livingston, CA stopped by our offices the other day. And, since we had nothing better to do, we interviewed him. Here's how it went.