Petition by Prayer

“Ah, but you see, Inspector, the crime was committed at a time in which I had no abilities. I could not be guilty as you assert.” He felt almost smug. There was no way this mere copper, this public servant, would be able to snare him. No way at all.

“There being no way and no provable way are two different things.” replied the lawman. “I think you are guilty, but I acknowledge I cannot prove it.”

“Indeed. I was under the knife in an operating theater with a whole surgery staff in attendance.” He gestured to the door of his hospital room while looking directly at his adversary. “Goodbye, Detective.”

Detective Irvin Delano shuffled to the door slowly. He was in no hurry and knew his languor would irritate his suspect. The murder he was investigating was an odd one, similar to the locked room paradoxes inspected so often in critical thinking classes of universities. The circumstances of this crime demonstrated clearly that no one had access to the victim, he’d been in a highly guarded penthouse of a massive skyscraper. He was locked in and there were absolutely no signs of entry or egress. He was in what was called a panic room; no windows and a single solid steel door bank vaults would envy. There were not even air vents, the air supplied by large tanks within the room to prevent attacks using gas. The scene, when discovered, had all of the manifestations of spontaneous human combustion –which was urban myth. Yet the victim had been torn limb from limb after being immolated, and grotesquely, portions of him eaten as he was taking his final breaths. It was a gruesome scene. Horrific in all detail as much as being a conundrum.

In truth, the accused, one Benito Enrique Ramos wanted the victim dead. And desperately so. He had been operated on to receive a new heart because his old one had been destroyed by a bullet from the now dead man’s gun. Other bullets had killed his wife and two young daughters. He been conscious and watched as his family was slaughtered in front of his own eyes. His motive for revenge was strong as any could be, yet he claimed to be a man of peace, a purveyor of the word of God. He was a minister. Yet Reverend Ramos was Delano’s primary suspect even though the reverend had been in surgery at the time of the killing. No one else had such strong motive for such a gruesome murder.

The dead man’s name was Frankie. Frankie Mulvaney. He was one of society’s members who departure from life would leave no vacuum. He was a petty criminal, performing small crimes of robbery, hold ups or burglaries for the most part. But he’d been surprised in the midst of his latest caper. The robbery of the church rectory. He was after the silver and gold in the religious appointments collected over generations. Gifts to the church from absolution seeking benefactors. Returning from a shopping trip, the family had entered the their home attached to the church and been shot at by the interrupted crook. Frankie had graduated to the big time, but had also managed to escape and avoid the efforts of the police to locate and arrest him for his crime. A crime that was, by happenstance, captured on video surveillance cameras installed in both the church and rectory. Trust in God, but be vigilant for those who didn’t had been the thinking. It was prophetic thinking at that. After the ugly deed, he had fled the premises and driven to his crime lord’s home to beg protection. In an unusually benevolent moment, the man who benefited most from Frankie’s activities permitted him to hide in his panic room. Almost no sooner than the heavy door slammed shut with only Frankie inside, the police, hot on his trail had arrived. Faced with pressures of prosecution, the crime boss had pressed the unlocking mechanism button, throwing Frankie under the police bus, so to speak. Whatever awful thing took place in there in mere moments. It was a mystery of the truest form.

The Detective ambled slowly from the hospital. taking each concrete step one by one, deep in thought as he left the building on the way to his car. Back inside, the Right Reverend Ramos knitted his hands in prayer. “Thank you, Beelzebub.” he whispered.

“Think nothing of it.” replied the demon.

* * *

As we navigate the stages of grief, who’s to say who it is we bargain with, once we reach the bargaining stage.

Lame a Ween

Well, it’s almost here. Good old Halloween. Of course, the Halloween that’s coming isn’t very much like the Halloweens I had as a kid. Our parents didn’t love us and so they let us run rampant all over the place on Halloween night. Dressed in whatever costume I had managed for the year, I would align with friends and together we would plan a trick or treat route which we were sure would bring the greatest booty. We started with items in our bags, but they were not advance candies salting our would be booty bags, no, we were carrying eggs, shaving cream, toilet paper and occasionally brown paper bags and lighter fluid.  Use your imagination.

We ranged as a pack, preying on the houses on our route. We’d knock on the door and cry sweetly “trick or treat!” when someone would open up. If they coughed up the expected ransom we would move on to the next home. But if we felt slighted, like someone handing out penny toys or cookies with raisins, we would make them pay. We would write ugly words like POOP HEAD or BUTT DORK on their walls with shaving cream or decorate their trees with toilet paper. If they failed to provide anything at all, well then out came the eggs –so long as they had a jack-o-lantern. If they had their lights out and didn’t answer the door, the rules made us leave them alone and we always obeyed the rules when were were being delinquent. At times we would get on a roll and one of us would have a Great Idea.

I managed to score a roll of adding paper tape one year. We laid it out on the street as if it were a painted street line and stuck it down with peanut butter.  We laid the line out so that it ran almost 60 feet and then curved into a driveway. We hid in the bushes and watched for stupid people in cars. We waited there for about a half hour and didn’t see a single car and got bored. We left and went back to hitting up houses for candy. The following day we’d found out that a car driven by an inebriated driver did drive off the road and into the driveway, and nearly collided with the family’s garage. Crap, we missed it. The drunk then tore the heck out of the lawn trying to find his way back to the street, and managed to run over a bicycle left carelessly on the grass. The story spread like wildfire through the neighborhood and my and my friends tried hard to look innocent when the incident was mentioned.

Today everyone seems to try to do their trick or treating in the light of day, making it difficult to play on the fears of wandering kiddies hoping to score.  It’s too much like an average day on Sesame Street when a skeleton hops from a shrub cooing “did I scare you? Don’t be frightened. Here, have a Snickers.”  No, you come flying out in the deepest of darks, screeching like a siren and throwing buckets of blood collected from the slaughterhouse on children who immediately go fetal and comatose, never again to utter another word. Halloween is black and orange, not white and pastel blue. If a child has never wet their pants on Halloween, why, they’ve never had Halloween!

Of course, we weren’t all that much on the lookout for razor blades in candy bars or pedophiles snagging solo children. Our parents and teachers encouraged us and often helped plot the dastardly tricks we contemplated. After all, it was all in good fun. No one worried that they psyche of a child or their spirit would be damaged by an errant trip into the world of fear as a giver or a getter. Stories of children put in ovens and baked a golden tan by witches got our rapt attention as did the stories of the ghost that haunted the old Parker place. We heard about serial murderers and disemboweled murdering hands, we heard of werewolves and monsters of all stripes. It was electrifying, horrifying and an awful lot of fun. It wasn’t anything like the sterile Anything But Fright Night gatherings put out by schools and organizations these days.

Halloween is a celebration of rushes; at least, it’s supposed to be. First comes the adrenaline as you navigated the spooky realms of All Hallows Eve, and then the sugar rush from begged goods that made us uncontrollable for the next two days.  It was a tradition, and like holidays such as Christmas, has somehow morphed into something that denies the whole point of the holiday. I say we should suspend OSHA rules and gag the child psychologists for just one day, and allow kids to put on masks and show their true faces.

Things That Go Bimp In the Night

Mom & Dad were here for a wonderful visit, but left just a day before some excitement at the Villa! First, I need to back up and tell you about when I first went to look at Miss Molly, almost nine years ago. Her “foster father” came to the door and before he even let me in the house, asked, “You don’t want a dog for protection, do you?” No, I assured him, just companionship. He let me in, and I fell in love with this little mutt, who we now know is actually half dog/half chicken.

I was awoken by something last night. I’d taken a sleeping pill, so my brain had to work hard to rouse me. I was vaguely aware that there was Something in the bedroom with us. Molly didn’t even bark. She just looked at me as if to say, “Hey, you better check that out.” As I forced my fuzzy brain toward consciousness, I realized…there was a bat in my bedroom. (I didn’t get hysterical because this was
actually the Villa’s third bat, but the other two were 20+ years ago. Please read about them here; it’s relevant.)

The bedroom door was open and I saw it fly into the living room. I closed the bedroom door, and went into the kitchen to prop open the back door. Supposedly, bats don’t want to be indoors, and if you open a door or window, they will find the fresh air and get out. I sat in the living room for half an hour, watching this stupid bat fly back and forth, back and forth. I knew I was destined to fall back asleep soon, so I closed the door, opened a living room window about 6″ (it was about 15º outside!) and went back to bed, closing the door tightly behind me.

I haven’t seen the bat since, and I hope he found his way outside. I’ll find out soon enough if he didn’t.

Bats One and Two

I embarked on some painting and remodeling shortly after moving into the Villa. I had a guy helping me, and one evening I noticed he’d left a dirty little rag on one of the cupboards. That wasn’t like him — he cleaned up every day before leaving — and right before I touched it, I noticed this dark little rag had a face!

I called a friend who lived nearby. “Save me from a little critter!” I said, clearly implying that a Real Man wouldn’t leave a damsel in distress. He came over, we made a net out of a pillow case and a hanger, and sure enough, he was able to gently scoop the bat in, and take it outside to release it. The friend moved away shortly thereafter; I’m sure there was no connection. Yah.

Three years go by. I was in the living room watching tv with a guy I was dating; we’ll call him Milton. Suddenly a little bat swooped across the room in front of us! My dog and I ran for the bedroom with Milton at our heels. “Wow,” he said, “What are you gonna do?” he asked. Is he kidding? As I shoved him through the door, I said, “I’m going to wait here while you get rid of it!” (What is it with guys nowadays? They have to be goaded into chivalry.) Many minutes of grunting, running, panting, and cursing went by. He finally knocked on the door, and I opened it to find him puffed with testosterone.

“It’s safe to come out now,” he said. “I think it flew out the window.” “You think it flew out the window? Or you know it did?” “I’m sure, come and look. He’s gone.”

It was gone. That should have been the end of The Tale of Bat Two. But it’s not. Fast forward about five years. My parents are again visiting, and we’re watching Antiques Roadshow. My dad commented that he’d always wanted to learn more about Grandma’s Big Vase, which has sat on top of my corner cabinet since I moved to the Villa. He thought it was worth a lot of money.

“No, Dad,” I protested, “I’m almost sure that it’s post-war Japanese. I don’t think it’s that old.” “Let’s see if there’s a mark on it,” he said, and pulled a chair over to reach the vase. As he tipped it upside-down to check for a manufacturer’s mark, out tumbled… a skeletonized little bat.

With gloves, plastic bags, and manly bravery, Daddy made the little skeleton go away. I had to endure just a tiny bit of teasing about my housekeeping skills. But I haven’t looked in the Big Vase since then, and I’m sure not going to now.