The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 45

The Alibi – Chapter 45

Penny kept her eyes closed and stretched her legs and arms under the covers. She loved her soft mattressed, king-sized bed. She slept naked because the feel of the lightly perfumed midnight blue satin titillated her. Plus, he preferred her in the nude. Sometimes he came in so hungry, so aggressive, so possessive. He didn’t need to be teased. He was always calm. On the outside. But when he was alone with her in the dark? He unleashed something…not quite brutal. Demanding. That was it. Demanding.

She liked him that way.

Her feet bumped something at the foot of her bed.

And her arms, outstretched, hung over the sides of her bed.

And the sheets didn’t feel right.

Whatever stopped her feet at the foot of the bed shifted. “Good morning, Ms. Lane.”

She opened her eyes, inhaled deeply and stopped. Felt like something clogged her lungs and it took three good breaths before she could clear them out.

The speaker was male, white. Late middle age – early senior male. Somewhere near retirement if not slightly past. Clean shaven. Nicely tanned. Dusty brown hair going to gray on the sides. Posh clothes. Silk tie. Great smile under bright gray eyes.

He sat on the foot of her bed facing her.

She catalogued the room. Not hers. Not his. Not one familiar to her. Not quite sterile but common. Like a dorm room. Or a two or three star motel room. She’d been in one once and decided guys who could only afford such rendezvous weren’t worth her time.

A dollar-store vanity over a dollar-store bureau.

Or something like it

A door off to the side and another on the far wall.

Sterile. The walls were a floor-to-ceiling industrial beige. No TV, no radio. A desk but no phone.

Maybe ten-by-twelve feet? No windows. Nowhere near a Brazilian prison cell but what she remembered of one still gave her the chills. This place had the same look if not the feel.

Briggs got her out of Brazil with one phone call. She’d call him now. Put a stop to this.

Where was her phone?

“You’re probably thirsty. Most people are thirsty when they wake up from being spritz with M12.” The man rose from her bed. “Let me get you a glass of water.” He opened the side door. She heard water fill a paper cup. He walked out, handed it to her, and sat where he had before.

“What’s M12?”

“A fast acting knockout gas. A Ketamine derivative.”

“No Ketamine derivative would work that fast. I had to clear my lungs when I woke up. That indicates etorphine or something close. Concentrated. Where am I?”

The man continued holding the cup out. “It’s safe. No intoxicants. No suppressives. Just water. I apologize for the rough handling. We wanted to get you here with the minimum of difficulty.”

“Where is here?”

“We like to think of it as a safe place.”

“Safe for who?”

“Have you ever read Meister Eckhardt?”

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Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

Mother and Child

Having praised youth in our last entry, this week we turn our attention to what allows youth to exist, the bond praised in Paul Simon‘s Mother and Child Reunion and humbly immortalized in much of my work, Mother and Child.

My first cognition of a Mother and Child anything came while reading A.E. Van Vogt‘s The War Against the Rull.

There’s a scene in which a female ezwal (alien, six-legged, telepathic saurian (according to Wikipedia. I remember it as more like an earwig), and hostile to humans) and her child are in a crashing ship. The ezwal are huge (a few tons). The mother wraps her herself around her child to protect it and cushion it from the crash.

Even remembering that scene now, I tear up.

It was the first time I was aware there was some kind of mother-child relationship different from the one I experienced.

And I have longed to be the child of a loving, caring, protecting, ezwal mother ever since.

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 44

The Alibi – Chapter 44

Sherlock listened to the communications coming and going out of Boston harbor and recognized elements from previous oceanic transmissions. Its extensive catalog of deep sea sounds, some from the first microphones submerged in ocean waters, its googleian knowledge of sound production systems, origins, indications, its massive computing, cohesing, interpolating, recognizing systems worked and worked and reworked every element comparing against everything from the chirp of crickets to the songs of whales and trumpets of elephants, from glaciers calving to seaquakes raising islands to the sun, spinning them, colliding them, solidifying them, separating them, extrapolating them, until its coolent glowed blue.

It reshaped the sonar array and pods, reshaped the hull enough to create sound separation and deflection grids, released two towed arrays to act as direction-seeking ears.

And heard.

Sherlock relaxed. A human would have sighed. Sherlock did its equivalent; it let its cryogenic structures form a slight aboric frost, lining its deepest core with veins like leaves on a tree.

It understood.

Could understand.

And wanted to hear more, partially to confirm hypotheses floating in its nitrogen-helium cooled chambers and partially to test this hypothesis against that, these against those, to confirm what it had been told might exist, could exist, but for which there was no direct evidence, only hearsay, only myth, only stories from cultures so ancient humans only knew of them from symbols on cave walls.

Sherlock would test this from that, these from those, with a single message.

A message from the earliest of its learnings.

A message to let the listeners know it was there, it was awake, it was attending, it was aware.

A message student programmers learned as their first attempt at confirming what they’d been taught.

Sherlock sent out a soft, timid, “Hello?”

Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

A Cute Young Thing

Ah, youth.

Mine is gone many years, except in my heart when I gaze upon Susan (wife/partner/Princess).

She is my delight and my joy.

Together forty-six years, married forty of them, not always easy, not always nice, and wonderful to remember.

We knew early on we weren’t suited to have children. Anybody who knows my personal history knows I had no good models for parenting, and I openly worried my parents’…flaws?…methods. Yes, that’s better, methods of parenting would cause any children I had harm. As it was, I didn’t do my first wife proud except for the fact I left her, again knowing I was not suited to be a good husband, provider, and father.

I often consider that one of my first rational thoughts, recognizing how flawed I was.

Still have flaws, of course, and they are different ones, hopefully less vexsome ones, more along the line of liking a good superhero movie every once in a while because I need to veg out for a while.

And all that noted, I sometimes regret not having children.

A friend of mine recently had her tubes tied, so abhorrent was the thought of having children to her.
I chided her.

“Children are wonderful,” I told her. “Lightly roasted with a little salt, they’re delicious.”


And I still appreciate The Wild‘s sharing its younth with us.

For a Friend

If you can lift someone’s spirits, you can lift mountains out of the earth.

A friend’s response to But it’s a Lovely Tree caught me by surprise. He wrote

I don’t think that anyone works harder & more consistently than you do, good sir. I hope that you and your wife are both happy, healthy, and doing well. I have been out of the writing scene for some time now after a series of disheartening events. I wish that it had all turned out differently. In any case, I hope that you enjoy an adventurous weekend doing whatever you’d like

Considering the tone of the post and the tone of the response, I was concerned.

The meaning of the message is the response it elicits.

“The meaning of the message is the response it elicits” is a truism from the psychotherapeutic world. In all things, this aphorism applies because it considers the world of the person receiving the message more than the person sending the message, and if you want to be understood, you have to be aware of how the person receiving your message interprets it.

A close second truism is “The first message must be instructions on how to build a receiver.” People reading or hearing this for the first time often make a “confusion of levels” error. Take it alongside the first and it’s easy to figure out (let me know if you need a hint. took me a while and once I got it, it locked in).

In any case, I have enough training to know that response signaled someone in distress, so I reached out.

No response.

Concerned, I reached out again.

No response.

My concern increased. No response from someone in distress is a danger signal so I reached out again and this time I got a response, and I promised my friend I’d get back to him.

(My friend’s response to me is in normal type. My response to my friend is in italics)

I haven’t written any new material in probably close to 3 years. Being published through TFP left a worse than bad taste in my mouth that I still can’t get over. I worked incredibly hard to get published, but once the nonexistent royalty checks started rolling in, it gave me pause.

No idea who TFP is or was and I understand. Your story is not unique in the modern publishing world, and it is unique to you. I’m sorry this happened to you and glad you learned it now with a publisher that doesn’t matter.

I’ve gone through five publishers before finding my current one and each of the five failed in multiple ways.

I also know knowing someone else has a broken arm doesn’t help much when you’re humerus is poking through your skin.

I was doing all the legwork promoting & trying to get people to buy my book, but they were not paying me accordingly.

Sorry to say I’ve heard this from more people than not.

Even when my book launched & everyone was buying it, the highest check I saw was about $75, & it was only downhill from there. Eventually, I wasn’t getting any royalties at all.

Again, sorry to say I’ve heard this from more people than not.

Honestly, the fact that my book ended up failing wasn’t the publishers fault, but the fact that they never paid me for what I was owed was.

Books fail for any number of reasons. Some are the author’s, some are the publisher’s. The real problem (to me) is when the publisher doesn’t live up to their words and their contract. FWIW, one publisher I went with didn’t follow through on their contract and I lost out on lots of royalties. I asked my attorney if what they did was actionable. Well, it was but pursuing it would probably end up costing me as much as I’d make, hence wasn’t worth persuing.

In your case, a publisher not paying owed royalties is something I’d post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Substack, … Personally, I’d nail those f?ckers to the wall. Not paying what is owed is a statement about them and their attitude towards you.

Remember, their act isn’t a slight to you, it’s a statement about them. Please don’t let an idiot take your success away. You wrote a book! Respect and honor that even if they don’t.

I could just no longer see the value in it. I spent upward of 5 years of my life carving and crafting that novel to make it perfect & nobody cared.

Incorrect. You cared. You cared enough to spend five years of your life working on it. What happened is a question of audience, marketing, and the publisher’s failure to act, not you or the quality of your work.

If writing is in your blood, is what puts life in your limbs and powers your heart, if writing is the air you breathe, then WRITE! Write because not writing is dying.

Anybody who’s creative, regardless of the direction their creativity flows, creates for themselves first, others second (a firm belief of mine). Marketing comes in when the creative wants to share their creation with others.

Find the correct “others” and then find the best “others” from the correct ones. Experience tells me this takes time. Great! Excellent! It took you five years to get your story down on paper. Who knows how long your nonconscious mind was piecing it together?

So for dear god’s sake, HONOR YOUR CREATIVENESS!. Long before I got my fiction published I took part in a meeting (not involved in writing), and mentioned I was working on what would become The Augmented Man.

If you don’t share your stories, they’ll be lost forever.

When the meeting was over, one woman came up to me and told me “You have to share your stories. If you don’t, they’ll be lost for ever and that will be a crime against yourself, against others, and against the Universe.”

I’ll put it to you, my brother and friend, are your stories so minor, so meaningless, so meager that they don’t deserve to be put out there? If not via an honorable publisher, then through a blog, serialized on Facebook, LinkedIn, Substack, Medium, …?

I have too much respect for you to believe your work should be hidden. Especially if hiding it is killing your soul.

I guess I’m just hurt about it all, and haven’t discussed any of it with anybody other than my wife & now you.

I’m honored to be in such worthy company.

I did mention the pay issue to Jonesy, but she never addressed it.

Don’t know who Jonesy is.

Now the publisher is out of business, my novel is no longer in publication, and I didn’t even receive a proper notice of what was happening. I figured it out myself that the company went belly up when I was trying to show people my book online.

Sadly, this happens more often than you’d think.

I suppose you can’t stay in business very long when you’re not compensating the people you employ.

Strangely, taking people’s good effort and giving nothing in return is a regular occurrence in many startups.

I was supposed to be getting paid 30% of the cost of the book, but then I’d sell 5 or 6 copies & get a royalty check for $1.70. It didn’t make sense to me & it finally just crushed my spirits.

I appreciate your spirits being crushed. And I’m curious; are your dreams so meaningless you’ll let them remain crushed?

Since it all went down, nobody has reached out to me personally to tell me anything, but I also have not tried. I built many friendships over the years & I was a member of a good community of authors. I feel saddened that it’s all gone now & that I’ve lost my heart for it.

I, too, am saddened. So a question for you: Is your heart worth finding?

I have a lot of respect for you because you’ve been such a consistent hard worker in your craft.

Oddly, consistent, hard work is the only way I know how to accomplish anything.

When we had our last company, the US Patent&Trade Office fought us regarding our original patent. They wouldn’t grant us that first patent because “If we grant you this patent, you will own the field” to which our IP attorney said, “Isn’t that what patents are for?”

It was quite the long haul. One of the junior lawyers quoted Calvin Coolidge when telling others about me:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. – Calvin Coolidge

Flattering that, and I put it against something I said to a dorm brother when he told me “You are steadfast, and steadfastness is a quality of the Lord.”

I replied

A person’s steadfastness depends on social distance. I’m steadfast, you’re stubborn, he’s too stupid to know any better.

Put more succinctly, don’t give up your goal, change your path to your goal. That publisher didn’t work out. And you still completed a novel and got it out there!

You are running laps while 99.999% of the people are still on the couch!

I just wanted to say that you are an inspiration. I intend on publishing again one of these days, & I will self-publish when I do.

At some point I’ll tell you about Northern Lights Publishing, the little company that not only could, it did! In short, you don’t have to self-publish, you do have to perform due-diligence when selecting a publisher. There are more sharks out there than anything else, so caveat emptor.

I appreciate it, my friend. My wife has offered encouraging words, but it just never seems to be enough to make me sit back down at the computer again. I really was writing because I loved it. I didn’t care if I ever became rich or famous from it, but getting financially screwed is a whole different thing.

Give yourself time to heal.

And while you’re healing, work at your craft.

Just a suggestion.

I know I’m going to get wounded. I can either focus on the wounds and watch my blood flow out or I can do what is necessary to heal those wounds.

When it comes to healing wounds, everybody’s different. Find what heals you and let healing happen.

Imagine going to work at a day job that only pays once every 3 months. You go to work for 3 months & your company gives you $100 as compensation. Would you continue working there? Apparently, I did

Yeah, okay, and chalk that up to a learning experience, not a death sentence.

I made more money trading crypto & selling silver coins than I ever made from writing and publishing. I wish that wasn’t so.

Haven’t explored crypto or coins. Maybe I should?

I sent an email back to him with “It’s long, yes. I didn’t edit it before I sent it. Could be a blathering idiot, and so it goes.”

He replied, “You certainly didn’t sound like a blathering idiot. I appreciate the heartfelt response & the time you took to draft it. I have much to consider. You may have just saved me from squandering away my talent into the sands of time. Thank you!

If you can lift someone’s spirits, you can lift mountains out of the earth.