Tag: murder

Flash Pulp 118 – Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighteen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp118.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride – it’s sort of like Seinfeld, but angrier.

Find it at http://bmj2k.wordpress.com


Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we delve into the case of the tragic loss of SparkleFairy, as uncovered by a legion of volunteers and obsessive geeks.


Flash Pulp 118 – Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


Fourteen year old Harris Baker was losing patience with his mother.

“Look, it’ll take, like, twenty minutes or something.”

The sight of her son with something as low tech as a shovel in his hand had set the woman on edge, and she’d refused the request for a ride outright.

“I’m not interested in helping you with your silly Internet games,” she replied.

“This isn’t a game: SparkleFairy is a missing person’s case, and we’ve been months doing the work on this. Me and, like, fifty other people have spent hundreds of hours -”

“If there are so many of your friends involved, one of them can go.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Mom. I’m the closest. I need to be the one that goes.”


“I’ll level with you – you can give me this ride, or you can expect an afternoon running through the classic repertoire of the statesman of industrial music, Trent Reznor.”

“How dare you threaten me, young man?”

“I’m not, Mom, I’m letting you down gently. A threat would involve me accessing the online storage in which I backed up last summer’s vacation pictures.”

“Not the summy of tummy.”

“Yes, Mom, the summy of tummy, all over Facebook.”

He attempted another run at an explanation as they drove.

“Well, remember how the NSA under the Bush administration was tapping the entire Internet?”


Harris winced.

“Well, it was. AT&T stored a copy of everything that crossed over their pipes – and then they accidentally opened access to their archives for 10 months. It was basically an open secret, and although I don’t think any one person has a complete copy, there are three major repositories currently in existence that, as a whole, contain everything that went up or down the tubes for six years.”


Science Fiction“So we dig through it. A few months ago, a guy named Macedonicus put together a software suite that links up chat accounts, email addresses, and anything else he can figure the protocols for, with known cold case files outstanding with law enforcement. He threw the front end on the web, under the banner of The Collective Detective, and, a few high-profile links later, he found he had a whole volunteer workforce.”

“Is that you?”

“I’m one of many – I’m doing a little better than the average noob though. I’m an editor; one of the council’s trusted worker bees, not just some flaky contributor.”


“Yeah, suits mostly. The project is too big now, so someone has to handle the business end – and the legal stuff.”

“Should I be concerned that you’re up to something illegal?”

“Heck no, I’m here to fight crime,” Harris replied.

He tightened his grip on the shovel.

* * *

The break had come when another of the editors – an OCD-wielding nerd named MitchSlap, who Harris considered a candidate for Asperger’s Syndrome – had found an alternate email account on one of SpakleFairy’s registrations for a forum she’d used to talk with friends while in the school library. Tracking back to the new inbox, they’d found a message from someone that hadn’t appeared anywhere else in their search.

The address had provided an IP number, and six days of obsessive digging through that destination’s traffic had lead the crew to an anonymous comment, buried under 10,431 replies to a CNN article regarding the missing girl. It said simply, “She’s under the oak tree on the west side of the Franklin train depot.”

At the time, the response had either been ignored as the raving of a troll, or simply gone unseen in the sheer volume of chatter. Whatever the case, none of the other users could have known about the cheap pot the same individual had offered to sell the missing girl in the hidden mailing.

Once The Collective had a lock on the source of his connection, however, his life was an open book that read like the work of a man who loved high powered rifles, blamed delinquents for the world’s woes, and refused to stay on his meds.

Those involved in the investigation had since wasted hours staring at his house via street view out of morbid curiosity, but they couldn’t move forward – not without proof. It had come down to Harris to find that proof, at the abandoned station, itself buried under deep layers of graffiti paint.

He’d assured his mother that he was violating no laws in trespassing, but, since leaving her on the open pavement and jumping the short fence, he was beginning to have doubts. He’d spent a long while inspecting the location via google maps, but now he was there, and it was cold.

Following his phone’s GPS to the spot the online maps indicated was likely SparkleFairy’s resting place, he located the tree, just as he’d seen it in the satellite view, and just where the original damning comment had said it would be. There was a decent sized rock nearby, so he set his phone down, with the camera set up to stream video of his work, and began digging.

He hadn’t expected how hard it would be, or how much muscle it would take. The chat that accompanied the feed began to fill – long standing members were dragging in people who’d never even heard of The Collective Detective, and word spread like brush fire through the real time social networks. The room was soon at its maximum capacity, and those bloggers who`d managed access took to writing up events as they happened.

After thirty minutes, Mrs. Baker began to lean on the horn.

With an embarrassed glance at the camera, Harris held up a finger and walked out of frame. The gathered observers broke into a chaos of mockery, uncertainty, and speculation. A moment passed, however, and the boy re-appeared, now redoubling his efforts.

He thought he’d found her at the two foot mark – but wasn’t sure.

Picking the phone up, he focused the camera on the dirty shape, and his thumbs became a blur of communication.

“What is this?” he asked. “I don’t want to call the police and discover it’s a moose bone or something.”

Hundreds of Wikipedia windows opened; specialists reached for thick tomes they hadn’t referenced since their school days; and Encyclopedia Britannica found itself with a sudden spike in user registrations.

Mrs. Baker’s shadow drifted into frame, and Harris turned to his Mom’s approach. He pointed to the bone.

She returned to her vehicle without comment.

“It’s a human humerus bone,” typed fifteen people at once.

Somehow, Harris’ brain had difficulty absorbing the information. Seconds ago SparkleFairy had been an abstract data-point to chase, but now the indictment had come down: she was human.

The loneliness of the place, and the terrible thing that had happened there, hit him hard in the stomach – but he took some comfort in knowing that, although a single person had seen her laid in the ground, a thousand pairs of eyes had witnessed her unearthing.

For the first time in his life, Harris dialed 911.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and ten.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Deliberation, Part 1 of 1
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp110.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by the the new Nutty Bites Podcast

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, we present a tale of futuristic justice.


Flash Pulp 110 – Deliberation, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


“Well, they all look like over-sized mars rovers, and they all roll around killing cows – that’s about it, mostly.”

The prosecutor smirked at the rough-handed man currently on the stand.

“A country understatement if I’ve ever heard one. You’re familiar with the farm’s operations? With the unit itself?”

“I’ve been working on the Lancaster’s spread for fifteen years, although only with, uh the unit, for the last four.”

“- and you knew Gregor Petrov personally?”

“Yeah, I knew him. We worked together five days a week for seven years.”

“What about the day he died?”

“I wasn’t actually on-shift when it happened, but the only surprise was that the robot had done it – I figured it would have been one of the other guys.”

“You were the sole maintenance man for the farm?”

“Well, no, I mean, I’m definitely the guy who does the hard stuff, but most folks on a farm know how to twist wires and pour gas.”

“Fine, but for something as complex as a portable abatoir…?”

“Yeah, sure, I was probably the only one who knew enough to plug a laptop in and poke at the interface, and I did a lot of the mechanical maintenance, but that doesn’t mean I have clue one about his electronics. I’m sure you know how to set your microwave’s clock and can replace the spinning platter if it cracks, but that doesn’t mean you can build one from scratch or even fix it if someone dumps a mug of coffee in the back. We have seven of the units, and Grumpy is the only one I’ve ever seen acting weird.”

The lawyer took a sip of her water, then re-approached the witness box.

“Do you think what happened was a mechanical or software failure?”


“Do you think this robot was programmed to kill?”

The cowhand licked his lips.

“Not especially. People might not have liked Gregor, and I could possibly see someone wanting to do him in, but changing Grumpy that much would be way out of my league, and I know I’m well ahead of the rest of the pack back at the ranch.”

“Do you think the company that built it might be culpable?”

“Well – not exactly. I don’t know how their learning software works, but I have to wonder.”

* * *

The technician which now occupied the hot-seat pulled at his tie, considering his answer.

“Before this incident we’d only had one human fatality. The units use something we call the adaptive education matrix to learn to make smarter decisions, but only in areas related to what they do. They learn to recognize who they need to be partnered with, and some of their human companions preferences – it learns the map of the area it operates in… but certainly nothing that we might think of as emotions. It’s mostly just a computer.”

“Doesn’t it have something of a sense of humour as a sort of emotional assistance to the human it’s working with in the slaughter house? My understanding is that it picks up jokes from the people it works with and passes them on?”

The tech shifted in his seat before replying.

“Sort of – all it’s really doing is analyzing a history of how often the people that it knows know the punchline interact with the person its assisting, then, if it thinks there’s a low incidence of crossover, it’ll try it out.”

“Frankly, Mitch, that’s how I tell my jokes as well.”

“We’ve been over his code with a fine toothed comb, repeatedly. After what happened last time, we actually reformatted him, just in case. We’ve got over ten-thousand of these guys out in the wild, and this is the only one that’s killed a man. If it hadn’t been for the fact that one of our quality assurance ladies has an obsession with perfection that drove her to memorize his serial number, we wouldn’t even have been aware that it was the same unit.”

“You refer to it as a “him”, why is that?”

“Oh, I, uh, don’t mean it, it’s just that after a long while of working with a ‘bot you start to project – it’s probably because the milkers we build have suction cups, and the slaughterers have a pneumatic spike.”

“What happened the last time your product killed someone?”

“Well – it was ruled an accident. We ran tests; we stripped him down; in the end we couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was. You can’t always anticipate what’ll happen when you bring that many interfaces together, but it was obvious from the volume of alternates we had in the field, and the number of man-hours logged without incident, that it was a fluke.”

“- and still a fluke the second time?”

* * *

It took the jury four days to determine they weren’t going to come back with a proper verdict, and the press were relieved that a hung jury meant they could keep the ratings going for at least a few more months.

When the announcement was made, Grumpy rolled gently back and forth, twice. The robot’s lawyer put a hand out onto the unit’s boxy shell – unbeknownst to both, a Time cover in the making – then directed his client out of the courthouse.

The defendant rolled past the cameras without comment.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm's Return, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and one.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp101.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tom Vowler’s new collection “The Method and Other Stories”.

An award-winning book of short tales that will make you cry with its tender moments – and by repeatedly punching you in the belly.

Find it on Amazon, or find links to special editions and more at http://oldenoughnovel.blogspot.com/


Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Harm Carter attempts to locate a telephone with which to report a death by wine magnum.


Flash Pulp 101 – The Murder Plague: Harm’s Return Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


I’ve never been much for fraternizing with the neighbours, but after spending over a decade in one location you can’t help but meet on occasion.

In truth, I rather liked the Hernandezes.

On a particularly chill night, two years previous to the evening of my return from the cabin, Mr Hernandez – George – had spotted my shivering form awaiting a locksmith to remedy the puzzle I’d presented myself by accidentally bolting my keys on the far side of the front door. He’d kindly invited me inside his own home, and, as he prepared a pot of coffee to resuscitate my partially frozen internals, I’d had a rather pleasant discussion with his wife, his daughter, and himself, regarding the vagaries of fly fishing. The trio were obsessive anglers, and even Velma, fifteen – who I, at first, thought might be simply providing a submissive echo of her parent’s enthusiasm – seemed to show a genuine interest in netting maximum fish flesh. I’ve long enjoyed the pleasures of others, and the more intense their mania, the more I take from it. Anyone with a ferocious regard for what occupies their free time is usually willing to provide a cheap education on the topic, and an understanding of all things is what I have a ferocious regard for.

By the time of the smith’s summons I felt as if I’d waded through the streams of Montana, and the Dakotas, myself.

The Murder PlagueI was not surprised, therefore, when, on my final visit, I found their door ajar and a bountiful supply of gear apparently on its way to, or from, some distant lake or river. I normally might have considered the disarray of the luggage and rods as unkempt, but my mind was largely occupied with the ugly fact that I’d recently laid Catarina, my now former chef, in her death bed by means of blunt trauma. As I clumped up the cobblestone walk in my hiking boots, I formulated how I would frame the discussion required to use their phone. In retrospect, I’m sure they would have let me use it readily, but in dire situations I find it helpful to let my mind grind over fine details, instead of circling the unalterable.

Having encountered no one to deliver my prepared speech to though, I found myself somewhat flustered as to how to proceed.

However, the predicament seemed dramatic enough to warrant my pushing onwards, although I announced my self-welcome liberally.

I attempted to strike a balance in my tone between friendly and I’ve-just-had-to-kill-someone.

“Hallo, Hernandezes!”

Night had again fallen, and the only lighting in the interior came spilling up from the half-spiral staircase which led from the basement, illuminating a long tract of pictures depicting smiling fish-slayers and their captured prey. Atop the photos, curving with the adjoining wall, ran a series of especially prized, but now retired, rods.

I’ve never been squeamish about the individual death of a bass, and my reaction was likely tempered by recent events, but I found it difficult to stare down so many suffocating fillets at once. Casting my eyes up the second half of the spiral, I came across what I, at first, thought was an optical illusion.

There appeared to be a man standing directly above me, but his shoes were slightly askew, as if he were on tip-toe.

“George?” I asked the hovering fellow.

I began striding up the steps.

It was obvious well before I reached landing that he was in no condition to talk; his face was black and bloated. It was also at that time that I realized the Hernandezes did not have a carpet running along the stairs, but that I was in fact tromping through a thick path of what I rather suspected was dried blood.

My legs found it quicker to finish the journey than to reverse, so I suddenly found myself on the second floor. Forcing my eyes into a closer inspection of George, I noted that he’d had several loops of high-test fishing line wrapped about his neck before apparently being pushed over the edge of the railing which overlooked the entryway below. The loose end was tied about a lighting sconce, which had pulled away from its upper-moorings under the weight.

I could not help but feel better illumination was necessary when dealing with the likelihood of an executioner lurking about, so I was forced to flip the sole switch that I could locate, the one which engaged the awry fixture.

Laying not five feet further down the short hallway was the body of Velma, a cracked oaken plaque with a sizable Marlin mounted across its front masking her face and the point of trauma which had disgorged so much of her cranial matter across the closest wall.

As I began to retrace my path, my eyes ran over the boning knife still held solidly in the girl’s right hand. My inspection had turned up no evidence of such a wound on the first body along my approach, and a hypothesis quickly began to form.

Given the scale of the operation, and the size of George, I could only guess that a third party was involved in the lynching, and that the unseen conspirator – the one who’d left their vitals pouring down the staircase – had, for whatever reason, soon after received the long end of Velma’s blade. The injured had likely then retaliated at the betrayal by clubbing the girl with the nearest heavy object, the wall ornament.

I suspected that the absent party was Mrs. Hernandez, and, further, as I could clearly see from over the edge of the hanged man’s perch that the descending trail lead deeper into the house and not towards the exit, I believed that she was likely still somewhere amongst the dark spaces of the first floor.

I had no interest in discovering if the wound had been fatal.

Watching not to slip on the flaking blanket of brown, as my feet plummeted down the stairs, I deserted the crime scene.

It was only after the door was firmly shut behind me, and the remnants of my breakfast disposed of in a professionally groomed array of rose bushes, that I noticed Doctor Henley, across the street, as he observed from the safety of his living room’s bay window.

He waved to me.


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm. The audio and text formats of Flash Pulp are released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Where The Bodies Are Buried

Tree Line
A member of the Relic Radio forums brought this article to my attention, and, since reading it, it’s had a terrible grip on my imagination:

The brothers first heard about Duffy’s Cut from their grandfather, a railroad worker, who told the ghost story to his family every Thanksgiving. According to local legend, memorialized in a file kept by the Pennsylvania Railroad, a man walking home from a tavern reported seeing blue and green ghosts dancing in the mist on a warm September night in 1909.

“I saw with my own eyes, the ghosts of the Irishmen who died with the cholera a month ago, a-dancing around the big trench where they were buried; it’s true, mister, it was awful,” the documents quote the unnamed man as saying. “Why, they looked as if they were a kind of green and blue fire and they were a-hopping and bobbing on their graves… I had heard the Irishmen were haunting the place because they were buried without the benefit of clergy.”


Two weeks ago, a new piece of evidence came up from the ground at Duffy’s Cut: A skull with a perforation that could be a bullet hole. “In fact, we can see some nice cracked edges that do look very much like a bullet hole,” Monge observed. – CNN

Maybe this is just a ghost story ingrained in family tradition – I do love the idea that some kernel of truth wrapped in an oral history carried on data that was unknown to the stacks of documentation every modern zoning, purchase or construction creates – but my mind can’t get over the fact that it might be something darker.

What if it does turn out these men were murdered? What if a fun family custom actually originated when Great-Grandfather Watson began spinning tales to commemorate the graves he himself had dug?

What if the self-aggrandizement of a long dead serial killer now leads to the discovery of his previously undocumented crimes?

Dread Pirate Roberts

Dread Pirate Roberts

Am I wrong in assuming that The Dread Pirate Roberts, (and thus, Westley) has killed quite a number of people?

Is there some loophole I missed, or do we just sort of play down that aspect of the character?

(I realize you could get away with things like that back then, but it still seems like a pretty brutal character point for a kid’s movie.)