Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Blue Man Post 19

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Word count of first draft = 7185
Word count of Second draft = 10311

“Murdock?” The spaceship door was still open. “You’re going to get found out if you don’t shut the door.” Cyndia staggered up the ramp.

The orange mass formed a face that looked at her as she came in. “What happened to you?”

“Thestern killed another family. I had a fight with him. He jumped in the lake, I think.”

“The Odrichans are an aquatic species.” He got up from the desk and cupped her chin with a tentacle. “Your skin is discoloring.”

Now she could feel the throbbing across her cheekbone. It hurt to the touch. “He smacked me hard. He said I was disturbing God’s name.”

Murdock had reformed into the humanoid shape. The eye hollows looked down at her. “You fought with Thestern. That was not what I intended when I asked for your assistance. Do you have any concept of how doltish that was?”

“He hit me first!” Cyndia jerked away and threw herself into a chair. “What does disturbing God’s name mean?”

“I do not know.” Murdock slid back from her a little, but kept his face on her.

“Didn’t you guys do a psych evaluation when you had him in custody? Psychiatric,” she added to his blank look.

“There was not enough time and the Odrichans did not. This is frustrating; I’m too far apart from where I need to be.”

“Mrs. Baton isn’t home right now. You can move in. As long as you hide in my room, she shouldn’t find out.”

“I don’t want to create inconvience for you.”

“The sooner we catch Thestern the better off the neighborhood will be, right?” Cyndia stood up with her best smile. “What do you need me to carry?”

She ended up carrying the laptop thingy that Murdock called a vidplayer and the flying camera robot. It didn’t take very long to set both up in her bedroom. She pulled out the books she had checked out for the Jack the Ripper paper while Murdock gazed at her bedroom.

“It is aestetically pleasing.” He finally said. “But this doesn’t match.” A tentacle touched the scuffed-up black trunk at the end of the frilly pink bed.

“That’s the only thing that’s mine.” Cyndia looked up from True Crime: Serial Killers. “This is Mrs. Baton’s house, bedroom, and decorations. She’s paid by the government to look after me since my parents are dead. She’s the fourth person to have the job, and probably won’t be the last. So if I run across something I like and it can’t fit into that trunk, I don’t need to own it.” She stared back down at the book again.

“I am limited to just the saucer, which does have more space. What happened to your family?”

“They died when I was a baby. Never knew them. Nobody wanted to adopt me, so I’ve been stuck in the foster care system. Will be released at age eighteen, right after high school graduation. I’ve been lucky, though. The foster parents I’ve been stuck with haven’t been monsters; they just want me to be something I’m not.” There was no answer from Murdock. “Sorry, you didn’t want to hear about all that. Let’s concentrate on the case.”

Murdock’s body rippled. “We need to see the current crime scene, the one where you were injured.”

“I had a feeling you’d say that. Do you want me to take you there?”

“Not necessary, we can program the coordinates into the robot.”

Cyndia opened the window and pointed to the still lit Johnson house. “I need to go take care of my face.”

Her cheek in the mirror wasn’t too bad. She put ice on it to reduce the swelling; she could get away with saying she ran into a door. Her neck ached but the bruises probably wouldn’t show up until tomorrow.

She returned to her bedroom holding the ice pack against her cheekbone. Murdock had set up on the floor on the other side of the bed, and only the top of his orange mass was visible from the door. “What does disturbing God’s name mean? Is Thestern a religious fanatic?” She pulled her desk chair around the bed where she could see him, and sat down.

Murdock frowned and consulted his vidplayer. “Not according to his personal library. The Odrichan law enforcement catalogued nearly three hundred books divided between astronomy and mythology, none on current religious practices on Odrichan 4.”

“Odrichan 4 is the planet’s name?”

“It is not what the Odrichans call it. The naming development worked out by interstellar travel is to name the star system and number the planets from the star outward.”

“Okay back to Thestern. I think religious fanatics usually say demons made them kill or their victims were demons—like the Son of Sam.” She opened the reference book to his entry. “Did Thestern say anything like that while he was in custody?”

“Only that he wasn’t finished and we would regret stopping him. Repeatedly.”

“A man of one theme?” Cyndia raised an eyebrow at Murdock’s sarcastic tone.

“At least he isn’t a liar. He did start killing as soon as he was free to do so. I need to study the crime scene to discover why he picks certain families opposed to others.”

“Okay, I’ll study my book to see if we missed an angle.” Cyndia laid down on her bed. “How was Thestern caught?”

“He targeted the home of a member of the local law enforcement. The officer was prepared for him.”

“Can’t count on that here. No cops live in this subdivision.”

Murdock made a noncommittal sound as he leaned over the vidplayer. She flipped through the book. The killers featured mostly acted on their sexual impulses, killing who attracted them. Son of Sam seemed the closest, and he just killed pretty girls he found on the streets at random. Whatever caused Thestern to choose his victims, it wasn’t sex.

You disturb God’s name. It almost sounds like an insult, only he hadn’t delivered it like an insult, he was being literal. She was messing with God’s name? How could you do that?

The camera robot tapped against the glass. “I’ll get it.” She couldn’t resist sticking her head out the window once it had flown in. The Johnsons’ house was still lit. Mrs. Baton’s car pulled into the driveway. She closed the window and turned to Murdock. “Mrs. Baton’s back.”

He was plugging a wire from the camera robot to the vidplayer. “Do you foresee problems?”

“She’s not exactly hands off.” She climbed back on her bed.

Like Cyndia had spoken a cue, a quick knock hit the door before it swung open. “What were you doing half out the window? Sneaking out?” Mrs. Baton slammed her fists onto her hips.

Cyndia looked straight ahead. Couldn’t give Murdock away. “If I was sneaking out, I would use the door. You weren’t home.”

“Why can’t you act like a normal teenager? Stop pretending you want to be a detective and concentrate on real life, like going out on dates.”

“Boys don’t like me, okay?” Cyndia made the mistake of turning to face Mrs. Baton.
“What happened to your face? You didn’t pick a fight with someone, did you?”

Cynthia put the ice pack back on her cheek. “I tripped and hit the door. I have ice on it. It should be fine.”

“All right, now you need to get to bed. You have school tomorrow.” Mrs. Baton picked the serial killers book up off the bed. “And no more reading this, it will give you nightmares.”

“The Johnsons’ lights are still on.”

Mrs. Baton sighed. “There you go, being nosy again. Their kids are probably just upset and they need longer to get them to bed. People who pry into other people’s lives are not heroes. They hurt people, and turn into alcoholics. You have to get your head out of those books. Now good-night.”

Cyndia rolled her eyes, and leaned over to view the other side of the bed. Murdock and his equipment was gone. “It’s safe to come out now.”

Part of the orange mass slid out from under the bed. “A good agent doesn’t always resort to sarcasm. Especially if they need something from the other party.”

“She shouldn’t always jump to stupid conclusions.” Cyndia scowled. “And I better do what she says otherwise she’ll be barging in every five minutes.”
Sleep was disjointed between the unfamiliar glow from Murdock’s equipment and feeling hands wrap around her throat. Orange eyes pierced the darkness behind her eyelids. After the fifth time of waking up having almost drifted to sleep, a warm tendril smoothed back her brown hair. “Fear not, Zy. He will not harm you here.”

She didn’t answer Murdock. She didn’t know how. But sleep stayed after that.
Cyndia had never skipped school a day in her life so far. Therefore, she felt reasonable sure Mrs. Baton wouldn’t call to make sure she was there. But she still had to hide until the woman left for her real estate appointments. She straddled a root and leaned her back against the Millers’ back yard tree. The lake’s brown waters sparkled where the sun shone on its tiny waves.

“Where are you going to strike next when you come out? You’re following some logical plan, vision, something. We just can’t see it.” Murdock had muttered the same thing while she got dressed this morning. Then he had showed her his comparisons of the two crime scenes, pointing out Thestern’s signature touches. Eating breakfast wasn’t an option after that.

“You shouldn’t be here, trespassing on a crime scene.” Officer Peterson closed the back yard gate.

Cyndia brushed back her brown hair. “I didn’t realize the yard was part of the crime scene. Sorry.”

“No harm done if you’re staying out of the house.”

She took a deep breath and averted her eyes. “I saw enough of it.”

“Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“I couldn’t.” She looked back at him. “The lights never went off at the Johnsons’ and nobody left for work this morning. They’re across the street from us. I told Mrs. Baton last night, but she didn’t think it was important enough to bother the police about.”

Peterson frowned. Yes, he understood what she was implying. “You didn’t go over to look?”

She looked away again. “No.”

“Well, I won’t tell the trauance officer on you, if this is the last time.”

“It will be. Will you check out the Johnsons’?”

“Yes. You’re not going to stay here all day?”

Cyndia smiled. “Just until Mrs. Baton leaves, and then I’ll lock myself back in the house again.”

“All right.” He left the yard, shutting the gate after him.

That was one less thing to worry about. And said in such a way that she wouldn’t be number one on their suspect list. She looked back at the lake. Astronomy, that was telling the future from where constellations were when you were born. No, that was astrology; astronomy must be the scientific one. So he liked to look at the stars. And on Earth constellations came from mythology. And mythology was just religions no longer in practice.

You disturb God’s name. He was spelling out names with the murders, names of the gods and goddesses from the mythology books.

She peered around the fence. Mrs. Baton’s car chugged down the street. Cyndia ran to the house, pausing to unlock and lock the door, and running back up the stairs. She threw her book sack on the bed. “He’s spelling names of gods and goddesses with the murders!”

Murdock’s eye hollows shifted to the side to look at her. “We thought of that. None of the Odrichan murders matched their written language.”

“What about constellations? How many of the gods are pictured as constellations?”

Murdock bent over the vidplayer. Cyndia draped herself over the bed so she could see the screen over his shoulder shape. He opened up multiple windows, maps with marked locations and star maps with the constellations drawn on them. “He paused between sprees, waiting at least a local Odrichan week. But the sprees always had a different amount of killings, different number of houses struck.” He typed in something and some of the marks disappeared on the street map. “Let’s see if the computer can match the first spree.”

A new window opened and constellation patterns flipped on it. It stopped on one and superimposed over the map with the crime scenes marked. All the stars fit over the red dots.

“I think you have concluded it. Let’s check the next spree. This is the one that was interrupted.”

The computer found three constellations that matched. Cyndia frowned. “That only had four crime scenes. Can we find the constellation off of just two?”

“We need a map of this area. It’s possible that Thestern has started over on the same constellation pattern he was stopped on.”

It took a while to find a map of the subdivision in Mrs. Baton’s files. Only one constellation of the three matched to an occupied house. “So we have to guard the O’Neals’ house tonight.”

“Yes. Thestern will strike as soon as it is dark.”

“But why? What does putting constellations down with murder do for him?” Cyndia sat crosslegged on her bed.

“He is sacrificing them.” Murdock frowned. “I’ll let the computer search on sacrifices in Odrichan culture. We must rest for tonight.”
Murdock guarded the front door. He could flatten himself in the shadows much better than she could. Cyndia laid under the shrubbery in the back yard like a soldier ready to crawl out on her stomach.

The puppy whimpered in its kennel. A vague uneasiness cleared in her mind. How could she stop Thestern? She needed self-defense training or boxing lessons or karate or something. Her throat hurt. Why didn’t she think of the shotgun earlier? She could hit him over the head with it at least. There wasn’t even a baseball bat in the yard. Billy liked cars of all sizes and large action figures. Crap, she hadn’t even remembered the water gun.

The only thing that the computer found on why Thestern was replicating constellation patterns with the murders was that ancient Odrichans used stars to mark their sacrifices and bring down the power of the gods. Loony but it did explain why he didn’t kill her outside the house; it would have messed up the way the constellation would look on the ground.

A dark mass gathered at the top of the wooden fence and jumped into the yard. Cyndia’s stomach tightened. No, he wasn’t going to hurt another baby so he could become a god.

She shimmied out of the shrubbery as the figure crept closer to the house. A sandpit was between her and the figure and the house; a sandpit filled with toys. She heaved a Tonka dump truck with both hands. It hit Thestern in the legs.

He hit the ground, but sprang back up. The next toy flew towards his head. A blue hand batted it away. The puppy now realized there were intruders in the yards, and yelped continuously.

Thestern steadily advanced, avoiding the thrown toys. “I’m not letting you hurt anyone else!” Cyndia launched the Spider-man action figure. “You’re no god, you moron!” Thestern ducked and it sailed over his head.

Cyndia braced herself. She twined her fingers together, and hit Thestern in the head with a volleyball blow. But he still tackled her, knocking her back into the grass.

She grabbed his wrists, but his fingers inched closer. Kicking didn’t unbalance him at all. If I get out of this, I’m learning how to shoot and some fancy judo chops.
Something wrapped around Thestern’s head and he reared back. He clawed to try to remove the orange, but more slid back.

Cyndia stood up as Thestern’s frantic motions slowed down and finally stopped. “Is he dead?”

Murdock pulled away from the Odrichan. “No, nearly unconscious.” The face sculpted in the orange smiled. “My faith in you was not misplaced.”

“I was lucky.”

“There is no such thing as luck,” Murdock said. “It is a conglomeration of factors that need you to fit them together. Others call it luck because they don't realize you are the deciding factor.”

“Is my dog okay?” Billy shut the sliding glass door. He ran to the dog pen, and pulled out the fuzzy white puppy. He hugged it while staring at them.

“Your dog is fine, he just didn’t like us fighting.” Cyndia smiled. “Did your parents hear anything?”

“Just Tiger barking. They’re watching a movie. Is that the cop from outer space?”

“Yeap. We caught the bad guy and he’s going to an outer space prison.”

Murdock grunted as he slid under Thestern’s body and lifted it up. “We need to get him secured.”

“Right. You better get inside, Billy. And this is our secret.”

“Cool. Bye Cyndia, bye Mr. Outer Space Cop.”
Murdock had sent the camera robot flying back to the saucer, but he had forgotten about his vidplayer. Cyndia was sent home after Thestern was secured in the saucer, which was actually okay with here, she needed to pack. Murdock wouldn’t leave the vidplayer behind.

She hid the trunk out in the woods between Mrs. Baton’s house and the saucer that night. The vidplayer she set on the wood side of the hedge that morning when she left to hide with her trunk.

He left to go find it and she watched him go. He would probably be upset that she wasn’t there to say good-bye but he probably wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. She hefted her trunk. After all, he had a prisoner to get back to prison.

Cyndia dropped the trunk in the storage room, and made sure the door was closed. She laid down next to the trunk. And there she waited until the throbbing noise under the metal plates grew louder and lulled her to sleep.
Nearly ten hours had passed when she woke up again. Taking the chance that ten hours away from Earth was too far to turn around, she left the storage room. Murdock was in the main room of the saucer, standing behind his desk in a relaxed blob, typing on the vidplayer with ten outstretched tentacles. “Hi, Murdock.”

A ripple moved through his translucent body before the face formed to look at her. “I should have anticipated this development. You hid in the storage room, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.” Her foot scuffed against the floor. “You sound like me being here is a bad idea.”

“It is! There are guidelines in dealing with primitive….”

“Primative! You didn’t think I was primitive when you needed my help.” She planted her hands on her hips.

“They are as much for your protection as it is….”

“Oh that’s a load of crap. You said you had faith in me. That’s all gone now that I want to be what you are.” Cyndia folded her arms and stared at the metal floor.

“What do you mean?”

“I want to be an agent like you. And now you’re telling me there’s some rule that I can’t. No different from anything else in my life.” She kicked the floor again.

His face frowned in puzzlement. “You want to be an agent?”

“You can’t take me back, Murdock. I know I need training, but I have a knack for detecting, don’t I? I’ve wanted to be is a detective for as long as I can remember. Don’t send me back.” She balled her fists at her sides. She couldn’t look at him.

Murdock slid over to stand besides her. “Well we can’t have a perspective trainee sleeping in the storage room.” He started forming into a humanoid shape as he moved toward the hallway. “Regulations be castigated. You have too much talent to waste on that planet.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Blue Man Post 18

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Another scene finished! I'm just trucking along.

The sun had set as she cycled down the street from the drugstore. The developed pictures were safe in her back pocket. Mrs. Baton’s car was back in the driveway. Cyndia grimaced. Across the street, the bedroom lights at the Johnsons’ were still on. Funny, the Johnsons’ were usually the first ones out. They kept to their children’s bedtime schedule even on major holidays, and presented her with the same list of instructions every time she babysat. All the lights on wasn’t right. Her heart pounded, but it wasn’t from the bike ride.

“CYNDIA!” Mrs. Baton bellowed from the front door without stepping out onto the porch. Cyndia grimaced again, and waved as she peddled up the driveway.

She pounced on her as soon as she entered the kitchen. “Where have you been? Don’t you know there’s a murderer still on the loose? You were supposed to stay home!”

“I just went down to the drugstore for something to drink.” Cyndia held up the two-liter bottle of soft drink. “I kept to the main roads, and stayed in the public’s sight the whole time.”

“Next time just drink water!” Mrs. Baton flounced away from the argument. Cynthia sighed with relief. It was short-lived. “Did you finish your homework?”

“Everything, but the history paper. It’s due next week.”

Mrs. Baton froze mid-putting dishes into the dishwasher. “The paper on serial killers is for history?”

“It’s how criminal investigation has changed since Jack the Ripper. I just haven’t found a modern case to compare his to.” She took a deep breath. “The teacher said it was an ambitious topic.”

“That’s not all it is.” Mrs. Baton shook her head. “Couldn’t you write something nice about George Washington instead?”

Cyndia put the soft drink bottle in the refrigerator. “I’ll be in my room.”

The lights were still on at the Johnsons’ and she had a growing uneasy feeling about that. However getting out from under Mrs. Baton’s watchful eye, she was fresh out of ideas. The phone rang muffled through the walls. Cyndia turned back to her reference book, but she couldn’t concentrate on it. The knock on the door still made her jump.

Mrs. Baton stuck her head into the room. “There’s an emergency neighborhood association meeting. Will you please stay home and not go shopping while I’m gone?”

“Sure.” Cyndia waited until she heard the car go down the street. The lights were still on at the Johnsons’. Her heart pounded, but V. I. Warshawski wouldn’t abandon a family in trouble.

Nobody else was out in the yards or the street to see her sprint to the Johnsons’. Cyndia didn’t want to be mistaken for a murdering prowler tonight. Their living room had a window that faced the side yard. She could peek there without being seen.
She got between the two shrubs planted under the window to prevent easy access. One branch dug into her cheek but she ignored it. Her brown eyes eased up over the window sill. The room was obscured by something red splattered on the glass, a fine red spray.

Cyndia jerked back. The branch snagged her hair and cut her cheek. She landed on her butt and hands. The back of her head hit the fence. Too late, too late, why didn’t she check on them before going to Mrs. Baton’s?
There was a rustle in the back yard. Had one of the kids escaped? She got up slowly, and crawled to the corner of the house. The back yard was fenced in with large, flowering shrubs that filled the area with a cloying scent. The French doors between the house and the patio stood open. But the yard was empty.

Cyndia stood up and left the corner of the house. How to tell the police? Intrepid amateurs were always accused of being the murderer. Skipping that would be great. And she had to tell Murdock. He’d want to see the crime scene while there was still a way in.

If she hadn’t been staring at the lighted doorway, she would have seen the movement in the shadows of the yard. What she did see and turned toward was the arm in motion.

Her elbow dug into the grass when she hit the ground. The dark blur jumped to land on her legs. She pulled them out of the way and kicked back. He fell on his back. No knife, otherwise he wouldn’t have punched. Cyndia pounced, landing on his torso. She punched his jaw and then hit him again. “You murdering, feathered psycho!”

Thestern rolled Cyndia onto her back. His hands latched onto her throat. Breathing isn’t optional, and she pounded on his arms. “You disturb God’s name.” He let her go and ran through the yard.

She had to lie there, sucking down air to cool her burning lungs. Where was he going now? She crawled about halfway around the house before getting enough strength back to stand up. Staggering across the street to the Baton yard, Cyndia heard a loud splash in the lake. “Great, he thinks he’s the Creature from the Black Lagoon now.”

The Baton house was still empty. The meeting should last at least an hour. Cyndia unlocked the garage door and went inside. That should be plenty of time to consult with Murdock. She grabbed a flashlight and locked the house again as she left.

The lake only showed a few ripples in a slight fog over it in the flashlight beam.

The Blue Man Post 17

Progress Bar from Writertopia

Finished the next scene!

Cyndia wheezed as she parked her bike in the garage. The time back had to be a new bike-riding record. She need to go to the drug store and get the film developed, but not without a weapon for self-defense. But what could she carry that wouldn’t be illegal?

She was still considering her options as she reached up to pull the garage door down when an orange globe of Jell-O as big as she rolled across the driveway and yard. It plunged into the border bushes. Cyndia blinked a couple of times, and stepped out of the garage.

“Did you see how fast that thing moved!” The gate in the privacy fence around the Millers’ backyard opened, and the two officers from last night came out. “When did we turn into the X-Files?” Officer Hilden continued as Peterson closed the gate.

Cyndia jogged a little down the driveway. “What’s going on? Can I help?”

“The situation is well under control, so just go inside and lock up,” Officer Peterson answered.

“That isn’t what I saw last night.”

“We know that, okay?” Hilden’s voice rose with irritation. “The professionals are handling this, young lady. Now go inside where you’ll be safe.”

Cyndia bit back a snarl. “Fine.” Some of the snarl leaked out anyway. “Whatever it was rolled down the street.” She pointed up the street and away from the woods.

“Thank you.” Peterson headed toward the patrol car. “We better take the car if we’re going to catch up with it.”

“Whatever it is and why ever it broke into a crime scene.” Hilden jumped into the passenger side of the patrol car.

Cyndia closed the garage door and locked it, but stood next to it inside the garage until she heard the patrol car leave. No sirens, so she guessed they didn’t want to warn whatever the orange thingy was. But she did know why crimes scenes were broken into; by investigators who didn’t have official police sanction. Heading into the house, she went straight back to the unoccupied boy’s room. The last boy Mrs. Baton had kept was into water guns. She found a pistol-sized one in the toy chest, and filled it with a cleaner found under the kitchen cabinet. It might not work on alien body chemistry, but she felt better with it tucked into her jeans waistband—in the back, just like the undercover cops on TV did.

She carried her toolbox of equipment to the point in the hedge that the orange thingy had dived through. All that was beyond the hedge was the still heavily wooded area not cleared for houses. She didn’t think it was working with the blue man with the deformed feet. If they were working together, they would be together. She pushed her way through the hedge break. The tall trees filtered the sunlight. The underbrush was kept cut down to prevent anyone not buying because the lot was unattractive. And there was no place for the orange thingy to hide.

Or was there? Cyndia stepped closer to the center of the lot that had been cleared of trees for a house that was never built. The sun was still mostly overhead and should have illuminated the clearing, but there a nearly circular shadow on the ground filling the clearing. She stretched out her hand as she moved closer to the shadow. It flattened against a cold wall. The trees that were on the other side of the clearing rippled under her hand.

“Some kind of illusion to hide something,” she said under her breath. She kept her hand on the smooth metal and started around the circumference of the object. Facing the lake, she found a ramp extended to the ground and a lighted doorway at the top of the ramp cut into the picture of the trees. Cyndia smirked at her idea and pulled the camera out of her toolbox. “Maybe I can sell this stuff to the Enquirer and pay for police academy.” She snapped a couple of pictures of the doorway and saved the last exposures on the roll for inside. Then she went up the ramp.

Inside was a normal-sized room, an office desk, a couple of seats bolted to the floor around the desk, two doors leading away from this room. Except for the stark metal and lack of decoration, it could be anybody’s office. “So much for exotic alien technology.” She finished off the roll in the disposable camera and put it back in the toolbox.

The door slid shut behind her. Cyndia jumped. “Stay calm, it’s a door. There has to be a way of opening the door.” Her heart still hammered in her chest, but her hands didn’t shake as she ran around the metal outside of the seam of the door. No buttons, no doorknob, no movement no matter how hard she waved her arms—ruling out infared. Her ears felt like they were burning. “Okay, orange thingy! I’m pretty sure this is your space ship and I don’t want a one-way trip to Pluto!”

Another door opened and an orange slug-shaped blob slithered out. Cyndia aimed the water gun at it. “Let me out now!”

The orange blob moved faster than she gave it credit—straight for her. She fired the water gun at it, but the cleaning solution didn’t stop it. She jumped to dodge it, but the orange thing grabbed her before she hit the ground. She beat her fist against it to make it let her go, but it was hitting Jell-O. Warm Jell-O, tough Jell-O that didn’t break, covering her head. Her lungs burned.

Something hard pressed against the back of her neck and it stung. Suffocated by a giant alien jelly fish? At least that wasn’t a demise predicted by all those mysteries.

The orange thing pulled back from her face. Cyndia inhaled before pushing against the orange blob again. “Let me go! Let me go!”

It was saying something; at least she thought the sounds coming from it were supposed to be talk. It finished pulling away, and she landed on the floor. The water gun and toolbox landed nearby. Cyndia rolled to her hands and feet, and stood up.

The blob was keeping his distance now, continuously making those noises. He was changing shape, forming legs and arms and a head.

Having a head to yell at clicked something in her head. “Who the hell do you think you are? What the hell did you do to me? Who the hell are you? What the hell are you doing here?” Her fists balled up.

The head had a face on it now, a human face in orange Jell-O. And he was stilling twilling and chortling at her. Anger overwhelmed her fear, and her hands curled into fists again. But fists were so effective earlier. She folded her arms over her chest. “I want out. Let me out.” I can be reasonable despite what Mrs. Baton says. “Let me out right now.” Oh this was hopeless, he obviously didn’t understand English. “They leave the language barrier out of tabloid stories.”

“Twilt… sorry. I am sorry for the incursion. It was the only way to mitigate communication. The nanobots should have established a link by now.”

Cyndia grabbed the back of her neck. She could see something metal floating inside his orange body. “You put robots in me!”

“Tiny ones.” The orange, translucent lips smiled. “Otherwise, we could not speak. They translate. It is common practice when you have not time to learn the language.”

She should stay angry or scared. Those feelings were ebbing from his apologetic tone and her need to know. “Who are you?”

“My name is Murdock. I am an IGA agent. Inter-Galactic Agency for the Apprehension of Felons and the Investigation of Criminal Activities,” he added.

“You’re an alien police officer?”

“For all purposes, yes. And you are?”

“Cyndia Taeurs. I guess you’re here tracking the blue man that was on the porch where I live last night. I found his crashed spaceship and tracks that led to the lake. The local authorities think it’s an airplane crash.”

“You found my saucer and another spaceship. How did you find my saucer? The cloaking technology is on.”

“Your cloaking technology needs work. You can still see the shadow on the ground. You are after the blue man, right?”

“I am tracking an escapee. IGA did not anticipate his coming to such an insular planet.” Murdock moved to his desk. “The ship crashed twenty-five kilometers from here. This is the closest population center.”

Cyndia felt the hair on her arms prickle. “What did the escapee do?”

“He murdered,” Murdock glanced at her, “whole families.”

“The Millers.” She bit her lip. “Do you have a mug shot?”

“Mug… shot… are you thirsty?”

“No, it’s a picture used to identify people when they’ve been arrested.”

“Ah,” he turned to what looked like a laptop computer on the desk. “This is Thestern. He is an Odrichan.”

A figure rotated on the screen. A blue humanoid, his torso and head covered in feathers, his legs lost the feathers to hard scales and webbed feet. “I knew it wasn’t make-up!”

“What? You have seen him?”

“Last night on my porch. He killed the Millers. The house that the police chased you from. He must be a serial killer to feel the need to kill right after crashing here. I found the tracks from the crash site. He ran out of the crash, through the woods, and swam across the lake to find victims.” She tore her gaze from the rotating figure and picked up the toolbox. “I kept telling the cops it wasn’t a mask or make-up.” She opened the toolbox, and pulled out the plastic bag with the blue feathers. “I hope these are his. I took pictures of everything.” She pulled the disposable camera out next.

Murdock didn’t turn his head; the facial features slid across it to look at Thestern’s revolving image and back up to her face. “Is this who you saw?”


“Sit down. Tell me what happened.” He turned off the rotating figure.

The chair in front of the desk was surprisingly comfortable. She set the plastic envelope and the camera on the desk between them. He settled behind the desk and listened as she went over last night one more time. How she had just gotten up and saw Thestern through the window. How she and the cops found the blood, the footprint, and the Millers. How the cops and Mr. Gregory had to pry Mrs. Gregory off of her. She continued with her reasoning on the crash site, finding the trail to the lake, coming home to see the police chasing him out of the Millers’ house, and finding his saucer. He only interrupted to ask what a certain word she had used really meant. Completely different from the grilling last night, and she appreciated that.

“You have an excellent grasp of essential details and a concise recall of them.”

“Thanks. This is only the five hundredth time going over it. And I haven’t even been interviewed by the press yet.”


“Reporters, journalists.”

“I understand.” He had a really good disgusted expression for a mass of orange. Murdock’s tentacle picked up the envelope. “I can perform a DNA analysis on these.” The translucent face scrunched with confusion aimed at the camera. “I am afraid that is incompatible technology.”

“Okay, I’ll get them developed. So what are you?” Murdock aimed the confused face at her as she scooped the camera back into the toolbox. “You called the blue man an Odrichan. Thestern is his name, so Odrichan is what he is, so what are you?”

“Odrichan is Thestern’s species.” The confusion cleared. “The solids call my species Blobs or Shapeshifters. What we call ourselves does not translate.”

Cyndia frowned. “But you have the nanobots inside?”

“We still must learn a language that the nanobots can translate. And there are still concepts that the nanobots have issues with translating.” The orange face conveyed no emotion as it looked at her. “Thestern will kill again just as he did on Odricha 4.”

“That’s unacceptable. We have to stop the psychopath.” Cyndia crossed her arms.

“It was difficult enough the first time. I need to search for clues Thestern may have left behind.”

“Why did you run from the cops? If you’re a shapeshifter, why didn’t you become a houseplant or something inside?”

The brow ridge over Murdock’s eye hollows lifted. “I can create the shape. Provided it is the same mass. But I cannot change my coloration. I left the area to prevent an armed confrontation, per IGA regulations on dealing with primitive planets.”

“The police must have turned on the Millers’ burglar alarm after Forensics finished last night. I didn’t even get to see them work, so busy trying to make me change my statement.”

“You speak very knowledgably about these crimes. Are you in law enforcement?”

“No, I’m too young. I’m a mystery junkie. It’s something special, to be the detective, to be able to see what nobody else can. They’re the only ones who want to help people these days. Sure, they get paid—‘cause they got to eat too—but it ain’t compensation for the trouble they go through.” She glanced at his expression and suddenly felt warm all over. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to give you my whole treatise on the subject.”

“On the converse, it is very illuminating. I felt the same way when I was still seeking my life’s work.” Murdock’s face went through the motions of sighing. “However, it does not solve the delimia present. I am prohibited from the crime scenes.”

Cyndia uncrossed her arms as she leaned forward. “Well, I don’t know how to break into a house, but since I was the Millers’ only babysitter, I have their security code to deactivate the alarm.”

“Extraordinary, you have valuable knowledge and an inkling of how it should be applied. You may be the best qualified person to help me on this planet.” Murdock moved from the desk. His bottom half hadn’t made legs and he moved across the room like a slug.

“Wait a minute,” Cyndia followed him to the door. “I’m qualified ‘cause I like mysteries?”

“And you stayed and talked rather than running and screaming.”

“Oh. So what do you want me to do?”

The door led to a curving hallway. The first door on the right opened into a small room circled with shelves.

“I have to see the crime scene. Since I cannot go personally, I need you to deliver my robot eyes.” He reached into a bin on a chest-high shelf and pulled out a cylinder as long as her arm. “All I need you to do is put this in the house and press this button.” It was the only button on the top of the cylinder. “Let it back out and it will return to the saucer.”

“Kind of big for a flying camera, isn’t it?”

“It has scanning capabilities as well. Not as advanced as a coronerbot, but it will suffice. Will you do this?”

“Yeah, no problem. I’ll be Archie Goodwin to your Nero Wolfe.” Cyndia took the cylinder.

“Who are you talking about?”

“More fiction, Nero Wolfe is a detective who never left his house so he hired Archie to do all the leg work. Works for us, right?”

“I submit to your superior knowledge of the stories. You best go now. I will analyze these feathers while waiting the bot’s return.”

Cyndia left the hidden spaceship. She hugged the cylinder to her chest. Aliens and alien cops, and she was helping in a real investigation! The house was dark; Mrs. Baton hadn’t returned from real estate selling. Good thing, Cyndia didn’t want to deal with her.

A peek through the front door window revealed nothing amiss in the neighborhood, and more importantly, no cops at the Millers. She skirted around the end of the fence that didn’t reach the bank of the lake, and was in the Millers’ back yard. The rope ladder up to Harry and Frank’s tree house swayed. Margaret was too little to climb up it. Cyndia swallowed hard, and trotted up to the French windows that opened up to the patio in the back yard.

The Millers had changed their locks so one key could unlock all the doors. And they had thoughtfully given her a copy once she proved trustworthy. She hugged the cylinder with one arm to her body while quickly unlocking the door, getting inside, and punching into the code on the alarm pad next to the door. She took a deep breath, she was under the time limit. She set the cylinder on the floor right in front of the door, and pressed the button. Lights flashed along the sides. It lifted up and bobbed through the kitchen, heading toward their living room. Cyndia shut the door and turned quickly, banging her knee on one of the patio chair-side tables.

She sat down on the wooden deck with her back against the house and rubbed her knee. Robots might be a way to go with forensics. You could program them to be impartial, but could you program them to think of everything?

“Hey!” The shout jerked Cyndia to the present. Billy O’Neal, another babysitting charge, put his hands on his hips. “Are you supposed to be here?”

“No, I’m hiding. Could you be quiet about it?”

“I left my Spider-man in the tree house. Can I get it?”


The seven-year-old scrambled up the rope ladder and brought the Spider-man action figure down in his teeth. Deciding not to leave the yard, he sat on the grass in front of Cyndia. “Mommy says Frank and Harry ain’t coming back. They had to go to Heaven.”

“Your mommy’s right.” Cyndia pulled her knees in and rested her chin on them.

“Mommy says the cops are going to catch the man who killed them.”

“That’s what cops do. Even cops from outer space.”

“There’s cops in outer space?”

“There has to be cops every where.”

Billy thought about that. “Yeah, I guess so. But how will we know when the cops catch him?”

There was a tapping noise on the glass. The cylinder nudged against the paned glass in the French window. Cyndia opened it and the cylinder zipped past them, heading over the lake to the forest.

She looked down at Billy’s wide eyes. “Well if our cops catch him, it’ll be on the news. If the outer space cop catches him, I’ll tell you.”

Billy turned from Cyndia to track the cylinder. “Wow.”

“Hey, don’t tell anybody, okay? We don’t want a cop hunted like E.T.”

“No, ma’am. I got to go home now. Bye.”

Cyndia took a deep breath and took a swipe at the moistness leaking from her eyes. Can’t break down now; that won’t do the Millers’ any good. She turned the alarm back on and locked the patio door. She still had to get the pictures developed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Blue Man Post 16

"The Blue Man on the Porch" (over the limit because I haven't deleted anything yet)

Progress Bar from Writertopia

Finished with the second and third revised sections of the story!

Morning sunlight poured into the kitchen. Cyndia sat down at the end of the kitchen table, as far from Mrs. Baton and the stove as she could get without leaving the room. She felt like Mrs. Gregory was still attached to her shoulder, even though that had happened hours ago.

“We can’t go on the front porch.” Mrs. Baton gave the grits a quick stir. “And the poor Millers. This used to be such a good neighborhood.” She glanced at Cyndia, pursing her lips.

Cyndia cast her eyes down at the kitchen table. She babysat for the Millers. When he had come back to the Millers’ living room, Officer Peterson’s blanched face screamed what had been done to their children last night. She ached to do something besides sit here and listen. The cops had already interrogated her enough. More commentary from her foster mother wasn’t necessary. She realized she had missed something in Mrs. Baton’s tirade.

“All those stupid mysteries you read, planting ideas in your head. You just dreamed up a prowler.”

“Right and my imaginary friend broke into the Millers, killed them, sauntered over here, and left imaginary blood on the porch.”

“Don’t get impertinent. You just wanted an excuse to call the police. And they actually had the nerve to tell me where I should keep that old shotgun. We don’t need this kind of attention and you just revel in it. We’ll never get people to move out here now.”

Cyndia grabbed the rolled up newspaper off the table as she stood up. “If I hadn’t called the cops, we wouldn’t have found the Millers until they started decomposing.” She stormed out the patio door.

The late morning sunshine thawed her skin. Mrs. Baton didn’t follow her to the back yard to continue the tirade. Probably calling her case worker to tattle on the latest insolence.

She sat on the bench set next to the hedge blocking the yard from the trees, pulling herself into a huddle. All the houses on this side of the street had backyards that ended at the lake. She watched the lake ripple with the breeze. Didn’t the world know that a whole family had been wiped out? Did it care? She was tired, up all night, answering the questions of detectives who doubted her judgment. Well-read detectives, one hadn’t liked it at all when she said Inspector Lestrade was mentally quicker and Inspector Japp had better manners.

Her pointy chin rested on her knees. He hadn’t been wearing a mask or make-up. She was ready to swear to that in court. This was no good, she released her legs and straddled the bench. Best to see what the rest of the community would know. She unrolled her paper. Mrs. Baton might think the Commoner’s Press was beneath her and subscribe to the big city newspaper, but she couldn’t object to Cyndia subscribing with her babysitting income.

As expected, the murder of the Miller family dominated the front page and most of the second. Cyndia scanned the article, and it didn’t tell her anything she didn’t already know. He hadn’t been wearing a mask or make-up, so was he even human? But if he wasn’t human, where did he come from? And where did he go? I’m missing something, and I have to find it because the police don’t believe me. She flipped through the news pages until she found the local police bulletins.

The plan crash appeared to have no bodies, so its investigation was pending waiting for an aviation investigator. It had crashed in a field off of Laurence Lane. She squinted her eyes to gaze across the lake. Laurence Lane snaked around the uninhabited part of the lake. Cyndia folded the newspaper to hide its headlines and headed back into the house.

Mrs. Baton was in the middle of her getting ready to leave the house dash. “I’ve got showings all day across town.” She paused to put on lipstick, and judge the effect in the living room mirror. “Would you rather come with me?”

Cyndia restrained her gagging impulse. “No thanks, I’ll cramp your selling style.”

Mrs. Baton’s now mauve lips frowned. “I don’t think it’s good for you to be cooped up here all day.”

“I was thinking about a bike ride around the lake.”

“With a murderer on the loose!”

“Okay, bad idea. I’ll stay here and work on homework.” Cyndia turned to head down the hall.

“Just don’t go out alone. Maybe Bobby Sherwood would go bike riding with you. Now I gotta go.” Mrs. Baton grabbed her briefcase and sailed out the door.

“Bobby Sherwood? Fat chance.” The only other high school student in the subdivision, and he had made it clear she didn’t have enough boobs to get him interested. Besides, he was a dumb jock and would just get in her way.


An hour later, she leaned her bike on its kickstand and looked over the barbwire fence. The field was churned mud thrown aside by the twisted metal mass at the end of the furrow. She pulled apart the strands of barbwire and slipped between them into the field. The fence line was clean of trees, and that usually meant the field was still in farming use. The farmer would need a bulldozer to fill in the hole before he could plow.

She surveyed the tire tracks left around the gouge by last night’s investigators. Frowning, she looked further out and at the undamaged trees across the street. Where was the wing debris?

The metal hulk nearly buried in the ground was about the same size as a crop duster. What was sticking out was bent over the part that was in the ground. But from the outside she could see there were no supports for wings or wheels. No metal bits scattered outside the hole either. This didn’t look like pictures she had seen of plane crashes.

Avoiding the largest dollops of mud best she could, Cyndia got closer to the vehicle. It looked like there was an opening on the top where mud had cascaded into it. No, she wasn’t going to climb in, that would leave too much evidence that she had been here. She frowned and turned away. How would Holmes proceed? She was assuming that this was not an airplane, and so far the evidence wasn’t proving her wrong. And if the blue man on the porch was the pilot and he crashed. . . . “And the first thing he does is go kill a house full of people, that’s pathological on any planet.” She put her hands on her hips and surveyed the area again. Pathological or not, if that’s what he did, he would need the fastest route to the subdivision. That was across the road, through the trees and underbrush, and across the lake, and it was more likely to have physical evidence unaffected by the crash investigators.

Cyndia scanned the trees and underbush before stepping off the asphault. The broken and pushed aside twigs propped out at her like a computer-generated 3D puzzle. Something tore through the woods, and nobody around here had any dogs as tall as she was. She pulled a plastic toolbox out of the basket on the bike’s handlebars.

She stared at the ground as she crossed the road’s tiny shoulder and the grass-covered ditch. No footprints, so she moved her gaze to the broken branches. A large briar branch snapped back had caught three blue feathers. They didn’t look like bird feathers, though she couldn’t articulate why she though that. She opened the toolbox and pulled out a wooden ruler and a disposable camera.

“If it turns out to be from a blue jay, I’m going to feel really stupid.” She took the pictures with and without the ruler, and carefully plucked the feathers free with tweezers and put them in a clear plastic envelope. Once everything was safely packed in the toolbox, she carried it into the trees.

Small trees bent and snapped lower branches under the green canopy of the larger trees showed the trail, even to someone as inexperienced at tracking as her. But the forest floor was covered in too many dead leaves for footprints. The trail ended at the muddy beach of the lake.

She scanned the ground before stepping out of the tree line. To her right, sheltered from last night’s rain by the tree branches, was an impression of the clear webbed footprint. Cyndia took three pictures of it before she was sure her hands had stopped shaking bad enough to ruin the photograph. She set the ruler beside the footprint and took more pictures. There was a trail heading into the lake, but the rain had damaged the footprints. She took photos of that too.

I was right. Oh wow, the guy’s path was straight from the crash to the lake. Her knees felt wobbly. Was she also right about that not being a plane? And where was the murderer now?

She dumped everything into the toolbox and ran for her bike.