Fearocracy

A theory by Michael J Pennington.

Fear!

07 Fearocracy1_edited 2There are many forms of it. It wears many faces.

From slime dripping aliens, bloodthirsty wolves, strange men and women with unknown motives, and more mundane stuff like pens and tiny balls of fluff.

 

Fear wears many hats. It serves as protector, and drug dealer, it inhibits us, it empowers us, most would not be alive today if fear hadn’t taken an interest in our lives. I could spend all day recognizing the many and varied roles of fear. Still, there is one roll of fear that most tend to ignore. It’s power to rule over us.

To be clear fear is a terrible way to rule or influence a political decision. Eventually, the people you are trying to terrorize realize they have nothing to be afraid of. And then what? Your power is gone, and you face a far greater enemy in a people who have nothing to lose.

Fear in government is nothing new. Many have tried this tool 07 Fearocracy1_edited 3simply to pick up difficult to master as it is. But this is not Fearocracy, simply having the puppet masters making shadows on the wall to frighten the puppets into submission is no Feaocracy. No. I’m talking about something more sinister. More… deceptive and shadowy than the most elusive of secret organizations.

Fearocracy was there in the begging, it’s inky black tentacles have slicked their way though governments of every style and size, strangling them into incompetence and ineffectuality. See Fearocracy is a state of government not a type of government.

Fearocracy has been achieved when fear permeates and controls every decision in a government on every level. The people are afraid, the politicians are afraid, the money makers are afraid, the media is afraid. Everyone is afraid.

07 Fearocracy1_edited 4Here is how it works. The people are afraid of something so the elect politicians who take a hard line against their fear, but the politicians are afraid of looking bad in the media, but the media is afraid because the money makers will take their funding, but the money makers are afraid of losing their money. It’s more complicated than this but I hope you get the idea.When everyone is afraid who is making the decisions? Fear is in charge, and Fear is a terrible decision maker.

What causes Fearocracy? Well, it’s always a little bit there, but what can bring a nation to its knees with fear is the shifting of paradigms. The world is a constantly changing place. (As people much like myself will no doubt tell you.) Great change brings great fear and the fear madness of Fearocracy takes control. While all nations experience some level of Fearocracy the ones who experience it the most are the ones most affected by the change in question.

07 Fearocracy1_edited 5These are almost always the most powerful nations, as it was specifically the old paradigm that made them the most powerful, and they being “big” are slow to adapt to the new world. Felling the loss of their prestige and power they quickly fall into a malaise of fear and they begin acting in ways that are self-destructive. The people beging believing the increasing lager lies of the politicians and forgiving their faults as long as they are on their side. The politicians fall to infighting and bipartisanship government ceases to function. Media gives rise to sensationalism and yellow politically motivated journalism. Money makers spend more money on politics for smaller and smaller gains.

Fearocracy’s are ripe for political coops and rising demigods. They are ripe pray for the worst of us. And they make the worst of us out of the best of us.

 

07 Fearocracy1_edited 1

Smoke: The Cannabis Detective. Fresh Prints (Part Three)

STCD Fresh Prints Part Three!
http://www.thoughtsfromaderangedprisoner.com
By Michael J Pennington

See Parts One and Two here.

Read the Smoke: The Cannabis Detective Book!

The morning came and Gwen and I were waiting for Charles with anticipation.

He came to the door we invited him in with great zeal. “What’s with you guy’s?” he asked.

Gwen and I looked at each other and Gwen said, “We’ve been thinking about your offer.”

“And…” Charles replied.

“It’s official.” Said Gwen.

“Welcome to team Smoke!” I said.

“Team Smoke?” asked Gwen, her face a little weird.

“Um… Yeah, that’s you, me Sarah, and now Charles, that’s what I call us in my head…” I said.

“Yeah…” said Gwen. “I don’ think so…”

“But it sounds cool, it could be a whole thing…” I said.

“That is not going to be a thing,” said Gwen definitively she began walking to the door.

“But, we… but, Charel’s help me out here buddy!” I pleaded with him.

“Sorry,” said Charles. “but I agree with her.” And they left together.

01-2 SmokeFPp3 1“Fine!” I called after them. “But I’m taking your names out of the theme song!”

We were off to see another unofficial member, Hymie. Hymie was a co-owner of a local cannabis grower he mostly took care of the IT, he also helped people with computer stuff. He liked helping us so he didn’t charge us.

“Peter! Gwen!” cried Hymie. “Did you bring me some work?”

“Sure did!” I said. “Say, how’s the family in Porto Reico after the hurricane?”

“Beter than most, we’ve been sending them money and supplies. Jorge is there now, helping them rebuild. I’m minding the store.” Hymie was distant.

“Have they gotten the power back on?” Gwen asked.

“No.” Said Hymie bitterly. “It’s been months, it’s like the states just don’t care. They just take our money and leave us high and dry when it matters.”

“Here’s some paper towels hope it works out.” Said Charles.

“Exactly!” said Hymie. “This guy gets it.”

“Oh sorry!” I said, “This is our new team member Charles he’s in charge of security.”

“Alright!” Siad Hymie offering his vape pen to Charles.

“No thanks.” Said Charles, “I’m on duty.”

“I respect that,” Said Hymie. “Let’s get to work, I really need something to take my mind off things.”

“I’ll try some,” said Gwen referring to the vape pen. Hymie obliged her.

Hymie lead us his office which looked a lot more like a computer repair shop. Lots of computers in various states of repair. His walls were covered in posters. Some were of Porto Reico, lots were for comic books and there were quite a few posters for Tarintino movies.

Hymie wasted no time plugging the flash drive into the computer. “Confidentiality,” he said, “I got this software from my old employer.” He meant the C.I.A. “So this is just between us. I can get you results now, but officially it’s going to take a few days.”

“Got it.” Said Gwen, and Charles and I gave a nod.

He pulled up the file and ran the software. “So you think maybe this is tampered with?”

“Possibly.” Said Gwen.

“Well it ain’t, or whoever did it is better than me, and let me tell you…” Said Hymie.

“Dam!” I said in frustration. What was it about this case?

“It’s okay Hunny. We knew this was a long shot…”

“I guess we just have to except that Dill did it,” I said.

01-2 SmokeFPp3 2“That’s weird,” said Hymie scrubbing through the footage.

“What?!” I asked.

“This guy committing the murder,” said Hymie “He looks too gangster.”

“Did ya ever see a bad T.V. show where they really wanted to sell it? So they give the Gangsters every gangster trope possible.” Hymie was onto something. “It’s like this person only knows about gangsters from T.V. and just did his best to match it.”

“That could just mean that Dill was a wannabe gangster,” I said.

“Maybe, but he grew up on the streets with his mother.” Said Charles.

“Yeah, and even if he wore this regularly why would he wear this at night?” Asked Gwen.

“Wait a moment!” I Said. “Dill was going to be on a T.V. show! I wonder if that had something to do with it?”

“That would explain the over the top appearance,” Said Gwen.

“Do you think Preston might have been fooled by it too?” I asked.

“Maybe,” said Gwen. “It was pretty dark in that room.”

“Hay Smoke,” said Hymie. “Didn’t you say something over the phone about fingerprints?”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s one of the big problems.”

“Um…” said Hymie. “Did anyone notice this fool is wearing gloves?”

We looked at the monitor it wasn’t the best quality but it was plain to see the killers hands we’re much darker than his face.

“Hymie, can you zoom in?” Asked Gwen.

“Sure,” said Hymie. As he made one of the killers gloved hands lager.

“Can I take a picture?” Said Gwen taking out her phone.

“Sure,” said Hymie.

“I thought you were worried about the government finding out about your pilfering of their software,” said Charles.

“Pilfered!?” exclaimed Hymie. “You wound me, Charles. Naw this was just part of my ‘retirement’ package. I just can’t let the general public know what the government is capable of. CIA has this room bugged already, don’t they Chris! They so funny I love fucking with them…”

“Who’s Chris?” Asked Charles.

“Chris is parked in a white van down the street. He’s part of the team that keeps an eye on me. He works Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.”

“Wait,” I said. “Isn’t it Tuesday?”

“Broden is sick,” said Hymie.

“Who’s Broden?” I asked.

“The Tuesday guy,” Hymie said.

“How do you know all of this?” asked Charles.

Hymie gave a wry smile. “They keep tabs on me, so I keep tabs on them.”

Gwen was too busy of taking a picture of the killer’s gloved hand. “This won’t violate your agreement?” she asked.

“Naw it’s just an enlargement,” said Hymie.

She took the picture and sent a text to Victoria I read over he shoulder:

Sorry to bother you but we got a lead.

What!? I thought the case was closed.

We wanted to give Dill every benefit, we took it to our computer expert.

And?

We think the killer is trying to frame Dill.

Do you have proof?

Gwen sent the picture:

The Killer was wearing gloves…

My place two hours.

“Well, that was fast,” I said.

“Victoria doesn’t mess around,” said Gwen.

We started to leave. Gwen turned to Hymie and said. “Thanks, Hymie you were a big help.”

“I’ll let you know when the official copy is ready,” said Hymie. “Say hi to Chris…”

I was pretty sure Hymie was just pulling our leg. Ex-CIA, sure, but he probably didn’t… As we were about to get in the car we spotted the van. “No way,” Said Charles.

01-2 SmokeFPp3 3A man was sitting in the front seat getting ready to move the van. He seemed to be quite grumpy. He saw us but tried not to. Just for fun, I gave him a subtle wave. He rolled his eyes and waved back. Then he drove off. “Okay, I think Hymie just moved up on my scariest person alive list…” I said. Charles nodded.

“And you are going to start playing D&D with him,” said Gwen.

“It’s G.U.R.P.S.” I said, “There’s a difference.”

“Sure hunny!” said Gwen with a smile and a kiss on my cheek.

Shifting gears a bit.

I realize I haven’t posted in a bit, it has been a struggle lately. I’m working through it. Everyone’s been sick and I’ve been playing nursemaid I’ve been getting tired during my chief writing time. So work on my projects has been slow. I’m just letting you know. I’m in the position of having to run a marathon, my work continues despite my problems, and my problems are no greater than those of other writers. I just like to let those interested know whats up.

To complicate matters I’ve just had an insight into two projects that I thought unrelated, one of them being close to done. I’m having a bit of an internal debate on how to proceed. The crux of the problem is that the second concept really deserves its own platform; however, the inclusion of it in my first nearly completed project would strengthen my premiss greatly.

I’m leaning to the idea that I’m going for quality over quantity. So rushing a completed project out is not an issue, and if I can strengthen a concept that should be a priority. Then I’ll explore the second concept in more detail later.

But, that means I have to take more time to complete it. So I’m not posting anything soon. Or wouldn’t if I didn’t have other almost completed projects like Fresh Prints Part Three. So I’ll have that up in a few days.

What’s going on.

Hey, what’s up!

Haven’t engaged my readers for a bit, and felt it was time. I’m still struggling with my sleep problems but I’m hoping to get tested for narcolepsy soon.

Some of you might be wondering “Hey Mike, what’s up with all of this dam poetry?” The answer to which I answer “Soon…” You may have noticed that all of my Pomes have had a kind of morality theme and maybe you have guessed that I’m building up to something.  If you did you’d be right!

The whole thing will be coming together very shortly.

Other things I’m working on:

Work continues on my book: Plague: The making of a horseman.

I’m about a third of the way done with Fresh prints part three.  I hope to have it out next week.

That’s it for now. Hope to post more soon!

Without Pie

Without Pie.
A Pome by Michael J Pennington.

06-2 without pie 2

Without pie
The rational eyes
Can see all.

Threes okay
But the rest must go.
Stop at 3!

Take away
.1415…
Makes all well.

 

06-2 without pie 3

Without ¶ eyes see.
They see the horrors of war…
and make them okay.

Greed can be erased.
For a fraction of the cost
Moral recounting.

What holocaust?
We just didn’t get our ¶
They had it coming.

So what I hurt you!
It’s your own damn fault anyway.
least, so say the eyes.

Mine! I deserve it!
The universe owes me one.
¶ can’t stop me now!

 

06-2 without pie 4

The eyes see.
That madness is norm.
Truth is still.

Eye’s protect.
Yourself from your truth.
Can’t face it.

Make it right.
No matter how dark.
Rationalize.

Game Design: Open World Superhero RPG.

Thinking about game design is a fun hobby. I’ve been dreaming of an open world open-world superhero RPG, and perhaps I’m not the first, but this is my take on it.

Tentatively this game is called Justice City. It takes place in my Meta\Mutant universe. I won’t hide it I’m obviously pulling from both Marvel (mutants) and DC (metahumans) often it is said that in DC gods try to be men, and in marvel men try to be gods. What an interesting dichotomy where both groups exist together.

But wait… isn’t that Marvel? I’d like to think my concept differs from Marvel, but I’ll let history decide.

Ideally, there will be two or more intros to the game.

Intro one long/tutorial: This is a more story driven intro designed to introduce people to the world and give them a basic understanding of the game controls. This intro will have some unique quest options in the game.

First person. You find yourself adrift in the ocean the seagull’s screech around you and you see the sun setting in the distance. Suddenly you are lifted out of the water as if by magic.

“What do we have here?” say’s a disembodied voice. “Oups! I forgot ye can’t see me.” A fishing boat becomes visible as a cloaking field turns off. On the deck of the boat sits a tractor beam emitter that looks out of place with the rest of the boat. Operating it is an old grizzled sailor, but he looks human.

“That’s better,” He laughs. “Let’s bring you aboard, and get a better look at me’ catch.”   You float closer to the ship. As you do the sailor steps away from the controls and waits for your approach.

“Well now,” as you get closer his image begins to glitch out revealing that he is not human perhaps some kind of wale creature. “I see I’ve caught myself something truly special… My name be’ Ahab, and I have a few questions for you…” His tones are ominous as he uses some kind of taser you, fade to black.

You wake up in a chair. You are restrained. “I’m sorry for the accommodations,” Says Ahab. He can be seen through a window sitting in a control room. You are in some containment room. “I got to know what I’m dealing with before I let you roam freely on me’ ship. What are you?”

This prompt begins the character creation menu. There are several races to choose from Humans, Lizards, classic Grays,  Logic elves, space humans, bloodthirsty space smurfs, tall greens, small furries, space trees, space squids. (names will obviously change.)

All races have different attributes, some races Grays, Greens, and Space trees, will have no gender options. Space Squids will have three options: Male, Female, and Condit. Greens gender will change depending on disguise options as they are gender fluid. Space trees are hermaphrodites.

Once you choose your race and appearance. Ahab replies. “I know what a ____ is, what I want to know is what’s going on with your DNA. Take a look.” A screen lowers and you see a mostly healthy DNA strand, but a black sticky substance is coating part of it. “What do you suppose that is?” He says as the DNA is highlighted. Alarms blare as the substance begins to grow. You rip your arm free of its restaurants, and You watch as your arm changes looking like some kind of claw.

“This can’t be!” cries Ahab. “You’ve been infected with Jossfire DNA! I’m sorry, but I’m gona have to destroy you…”

“Fire suppression system activated.” A computer says as an alarm blares. Smoke begins to emit from the ceiling but stops just as quickly. “Error! Fire suppression system offline.”

“Dammit! Forgot the parts are still on order…” cries Ahab, “New plan. I’m letting you out of the chair.” The chairs restraints release and you are able to walk around. A panel opens at the back of the room. “A watch is sitting on the wall I need you to put it on.”

You have two options, you can talk to Ahab, or you can use the watch.

Talking to Ahab.

Option: “You tried to kill me!”

Ahab: “What!? Are you still holding a grudge? Let’s move past that.”

Option: “How do I know that watch won’t kill me?”

Ahab: “You don’t, but that Jossfire DNA is spreading. Unless you want to be a soulless murder machine you don’t have much of a choice.”

Suboption: “Soulless murder machine doesn’t sound that bad…”

Ahab: “What about free will?! Will it be as entertaining if it’s not your choice? Besides you are not getting out of there until you put on that watch…”

Option: “What exactly is a Jossfire?”

Ahab: “It is theorized that ninety percent of all sentient life evolved from the same species of waterbear. One of the few who hasn’t is the Jossfire, their the most feared things in the galaxy. It’s said they can evolve on demand, and they kill without warning or reason. They’ve wiped whole systems and we’re not talking about backwaters like earth. The whole Cerulin empire disappeared overnight.”

Option:”What is that watch?”

Ahab:”Put it on and I’ll show you.”

If the player waits too long they will change into a Jossfire and a cutscene showing the destruction of earth.

Putting on the watch will cause your arm to change back to normal. Ahab speaks. “Excellent! It’s working! Best way to stop the Jossfire DNA from spreading is to have total control over your DNA. That watch is a relic of the Curlin empire. It pains me to lose it but you need it more. It allows for Total control of one’s DNA, you can change yourself any way you see fit. Make yourself taller, smarter, laser beams that shoot from your ass, you name it! Just takes some time for the watch to sink with you. The more you use it the more control you have.”

A brief tutorial on how to use the watches options follows including the watches disguise feature which gives you a built-in secret identity. From there the door opens and you have the option to leave the room. To make up for trying to kill you Ahab will a few options.

A Test of your abilities: A optional tutorial to familiarise players with the controls.

Training: Because he has holographic training simulator Ahab can train any skill in the game.

Recommendations: Ahab knows the locations of several of the game’s factions and can point you in their direction.

Shopping: Lots of things to buy, including costumes, secret hideout upgrades, vehicles, and weapons.

Quest: Ahab has several jobs for you to do, some reputable some not so much. He’ll also start you on the main quest.

Job: Ginny pig. Ahab happens to be a scientist studying local fauna, if you let him experiment on you he’ll pay you.

Leve: Just leave and start the game. Ahab’s ship will be your fist discovered location. You can return to his services anytime.

Intro Two Short: This is more of a skip, and is more ambiguous letting the player decide their own backstory. The main quest can still be completed, but the player will be exposed to the Jossfire DNA as part of the quest. It’s only recommended for players familiar with the game’s controls and gameplay.

After character creation, a brief cutscene plays showing a meteor crashing in the woods. The player begins the game close to the crash site. The only thing to do is activate the watch and put it on. After that, you can leave and play the game. You are placed not far from a quest hub and can start there, or go wherever you like. There are several people who will steer you in the direction of Ahab, and others who can provide similar services.

Class system: The class system is designed not to give the player unique abilities, but rather give unique attributes to those abilities. There are four classes with another class that is unlocked through the main quest.

Classes:

Meta: Meta’s get their abilities from their DNA, almost all sentient life forms have genetic abilities coded into their DNA. These abilities can then be unlocked by a recessive activater gen. In this universe, Meta’s have been a part of human history since the dawn of time. They are considered completely human, and often revered and respected. Aleins who are Meta’s are seen as still being natural. Not everything has been smooth between Meta’s and normal people, but they have a certain privileged existence.

Defining atrabute: Control. Given training, a Meta can gain complete control. This can help with things like aiming and distance. Meta’s will also caus less damage which helps with public image.

Mutant: Some believe the meteor that killed the dinosaurs brought with it an alien life form which mimics the chromosomes of lifeforms it infects. These “mutant” chromosomes absorb the attributes of the host DNA including latent powers. When activated the chromosome will often give the host great power, but often at a severe cost. This has sparked a debate as to whether the mutant chromosome is a parisite or symbiote. Because mutations can often be grotesque they are seen as mosters and a public hazard. They are often seen as bad guys is mythology. Until recently they’ve been treated as slaves and second class citizens.

Defining attributes: Power, often seen as a boost to damage or defense. Powers often come with drawbacks that get worse as the level grows. They cause more damage which is seen as a negative.

Magic: Magic is energy and it’s wielders conduits. Learning how to harness this power magic heroes and villains seem out of phase with the rest of the world. Because of this they can resist damage and bypass the defenses of nonmagic users.

Defining attribute: bypass, greater strength with abilities like mind control, illusion, and disguise.

Tech/combat: Who needs powers? Whether you are just a gun aficionado with issues or A tin suite wearing superguenus. There are a variety of options. Sacrificing power for general combat readiness and tatical advantage. Most T\C characters have a gadget for almost any occasion. Anti-Meta rounds, Magic suppression fields, and mutant control gas be prepared.

Defining attributes: The weakest of all the classes T\C come equipt with all the other classes weaknesses. They fight dirty, but they get the job done.

Jossfire: Jossfire gains the best qualities of all the other classes, without any of the weakness.

Abilities.

(coming soon)

Factions: Proposed list of factions.

 

Mutants:

Justice City Mutant Police Department JCMPD: Good, A group of mutant cops trying to make a difference.

Mutant School: Neutral/good Hidden school teaches mutants to control their powers.

Mutant Underground: Neutral, they hide underground.

Mutant nation: Bad, Sure they may have some good points but their methods are terrorism and genocide.

 

Meta:

Meta league: Neutral\bad, they are a group of self-serving elites. Thier public image is great, but they will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

The Masquerade: Bad\nutral, high-class bad guys they control things behind the scenes, they rarely recruit non-Meta’s.

Meta squad: Neutral/good Not an official police force, they are owned by a privet company, but they often help. Despite their name the sometimes have non-Meta’s in their ranks.

 

Magic:

Royal Order of Sage Enchanters R.O.S.E: Good, its members are defined by colors pink for illusion yellow for healing, they may be a bit pretentious, but they protect the city from magical threats.

Hell’s Cantina: Neutral, they keep the balance.

The Knights of Core: Bad, Core was a dark deity with a penchant for pain and misery. These assholes want to bring him back.

 

Tech\Combat

The science academy: Good\Nutral Because Science!

Vigilantes ‘R’ Us: Neutral, has an unfortunate family tragedy set you on a bullet-ridden quest for revenge? Has a childhood incident left you with a penchant for dressing like rodents and dispensing justice?  Vigilantes ‘R’ Us for all your taking-the-law-in-your-own-hands needs. Remember who needs therapy when you have guns!

Eddison Technologies: Bad, Because evil science!

 

Others:

The Justice City Advergers: Good, most well-known hero group in Justice city.

Valued Entities Xiphoid Xoanon V.E.X.X industries: Nutral\bad, Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid to be a superhero, V.E.X.X. industries have the solution! We’ll set you up with the best gear and a ‘job’ for your secret identity, all we ask in return is some scientific data in return.  V.EX.X. has a strict morality clause and will fine you for excessive city damage, but they pay well and have good benefits. Humans without powers need not apply.

The League of Extrodinary Criminals. Bad, Only the best of the worst get in, become infamous enough and they’ll find you.

A’merc’a: Nutral, A freelance ‘milita’ that sells it’s services to the highest bidder.

The shadow of death: No one knows if knows if these shadowy assains are real because anyone who has gotten close to them dies…

Meta-Mutant affairs. Neutral, Govement agency.

Fearce United Righteous Independent Eternal Sisterhood F.U.R.I.E.S.  Good, All Female superhero group.

Characters:

Fishmonger: Neutral, He was a humble seller of fish the government turned him into a weapon of war. Now he deals in both. This fishy Pun-isher serves up his vengeance with a side of tartar sauce! Known associations: Vigilante’s ‘R’ Us, A’merc’a

Geoterra! Good, The worlds only kown Meta-mutant, having both the meta gen and the mutant chromosome. She get’s the best of both worlds. Basically, my worlds Superman, her powers are earth, if eath does it she can do it. Known Associations: F.U.R.I.E.S The Justice City Advergers.

Gasp! Good, A mutant with the power to teleport. She has to hold her breath to teleport, which is hard because she burned her lungs in a fire a now must use a breathing machine. Known Associations: F.U.R.I.E.S, Mutant School.

More to come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smoke: The Cannabis Detective: Fresh Prints (part two)

STCD Fresh Prints part two!
http://www.thoughtsfromaderangedprisoner.com
By Michael J Pennington

Read part one Here!

Read the Smoke: The Cannabis Detective Book!

02-2 smoke 5I stood up Preston was looked shocked that I could see him. He tried to speak but the connection was never the best, I got video but no audio. I looked at him as spoke. “Are you Preston?” I asked.

He mouthed the word “yes,” and shook his head.

“It’s him,” I said to Victora and Gwen.

“Is it always this awkward?” asked Victora.

“No, sometimes it’s worse,” Said Gwen.

Preston seemed to have his attention drawn to someone who was invisible to us. No doubt our silent partner, Sarah. She was a ghost as well. She was our first case and now she just stuck around to help us. She was going over the rules with Preston.

Preston looked at me confused but I decided to press on. “Preston, we are here with your wife Victora.”

He looked at Victora and waved. “Preston says ‘s hi,” I said.

“I love you.” Said Victora uncharacteristically teary-eyed.

Preston mounted the words, “I love you too.”

“He loves you too,” I said.

“Preston,” I said. “Do you know who killed you?”

02-2 smoke 6Preston looked confused. He looked to Sarah. He seemed to be talking to her. Then a look of shock came over his face. Followed by despair. He dropped to his knees weeping.

The room had been silent for too long. Gwen got up and whispered to me “what’s wrong?”

“I don’t think he’s aware of the fact that he’s dead,” I said under my voice.

“Did you tell him?” Asked Gwen.

“Sarah did,” I said.

“So what’s going on now?” She asked.

“He’s processing,” I said.

“What’s wrong?” Asked Victora. Her voice caused Preston to look up at her.

“Sometimes the newly…” Gwen hesitated. “Dead…” The word sent Preston into a fresh round of crying. “Have some trouble with the transition.” That was as tactful as she could make it.

“What’s he doing?” Asked Victora.

“He’s… Crying. He just found out,” I said.

“Can he hear me?” asked Victora.

“Yes,” I said.

“Preston!” Said Victora with force. The tone of her voice seemed to snap him out of it. He looked worried. “I know this is hard for you but we really need your help. I need you to be strong for me. I need you to answer this mans question. Can you do that?”

Preston nodded and mouthed the word “yes.”

“He said yes,” I said.

Preston stood up and looked at me intently. “Do you remember the night you were… murdered?” I asked.

He looked like he was about to cry, but he gave a quick glance to Victora and that seemed to steel his resolve. He nodded yes.

“Did you get a look at your attacker?”

He nodded again.

“Do you know who it was?” I asked.

He didn’t nod instead he moved himself to the fireplace. He pointed at one of the pictures on the mantel. It was not good. It was a picture of Dill.

I was frozen I didn’t know how to react. “What is it?” asked Victora.

“You’re not going to like it,” I said.

“What did he say?” she asked.

02-2 smoke 7I pointed at the picture. “He said it was Dill…” I wanted to give her the answer she was looking for, but it was not the truth. I even believed it myself for a moment.

“Victora… I’m so…” Gwen began to say.

“Get out!” Cried Victora.

“Look I know this is hard,” I said. “We’ll leave, but do you want to say something to Preston…”

“You’re probably a couple of con artist anyway….” Said Victora. We started to leave. “Wait!” She said, and we turned around. “Tell him…” She hesitated. “Tell him I’ll always love him and I miss him so damn much it hurts.”

Preston began to speak, his mouth moved so fast I couldn’t follow, but I got the gist of it. “He says he’ll always love you too,” I said too her.

“I’ll make sure you are paid for your time,” she said. “Right now I just need to be alone.”

“Okay,” I said and we left. That was a hard case. I wish there was more we could do.

Charles came and got us from Victoras mansion. We told him what happen. “That’s a shame. I guess they can’t always turn out the way we want.”

“I know, something about this one bugs me. I looked into Dill’s eyes. I didn’t see the eyes of a killer,” I said.

“If there’s one thing being a cop has taught me,” Said Charles. “Sometimes the most stone cold killers have the eye’s of an angel.”

I didn’t reply. I couldn’t get the case out of my mind. I kept thinking about it. We had the camera footage, and the murder weapon, even the victim himself identified Dill as the killer. Why couldn’t I let this go? Did Victora’s need to prove Dill innocent infect me? Maybe, I just hated telling people bad news.

There was only one way to console myself at a time like this. Old video games. When we got home Gwen knew I was having a hard time and she let me break out my old system, and I began to play my favorite adventure R.P.G. The old school kind with dungeons and puzzles and items that helped you solve the dungeon puzzles.

Gwen sat next to me and we took turns, I’d play for a bit and then she would play. We would switch when we wanted to take a hit. “Poor Victora,” said Gwen as took the controller. “She really wanted Dill to be innocent.”

“I really thought he was,” I said taking a drag on my pipe.

“Me too,” said Gwen handing me the controller. “Makes me sad.”

“I never played this game high before,” I said. “Makes it kind of fun. Like a whole new experience.”

I was just about to enter the boss chamber when Gwen said “Hunny, did you know you’ve been smoking out of Casper.” Casper was my ‘special’ bowl. The one I packed with Ghost-19. I had another pipe for regular smoking. I called that one The Gate Keeper. Don’t judge.

The screen on the TV went white. “Ho no!” I said.

“What is it?” Asked Gwen.

“I never told anyone this before, but I always hated this dungeon because if it’s boss.”

“Really?” asked Gwen. “I always thought he was kind of goofy looking.”

A ghostly hand crawled out of the TV. “It’s the Phantom,” I said. “Something about his weird vacant polygon eyes…” He popped his head out of the TV and began to crawl out. “Fuck you!” I yelled at the pixilated blocky monster.

02-2 smoke 8He kept coming. “Sarah!” I said. “You can stop now!” Gwen was laughing uncontrollably. “Sarah!” The monster got all the way to my feet. When it vanished. “Goddammit Sarah!”

The phantom was back in the screen where he belonged, and Sarah was standing there laughing at me.

“Really?” Said Gwen. “You’re afraid of that thing?” She said pointing at the screen. Where a cartoony monster was dancing on the screen. Maybe it did seem kind of silly now.

“Don’t judge me I was just a kid…” I started to say.

“A kid?” asked Gwen. “You were like twenty when this came out.”

“A very young twenty years old,” I said defensively.

“Whatever,” said Gwen. “What does Sarah want?”

Now Sarah looked upset. “She looks upset,” I said.

“Is she mad we didn’t consult her?” Asked Gwen.

“Look, Sarah, we’re sorry, the case was over before it even got started there wasn’t time to contact you,” I said.

Sarah looked at me and shook her head.

“That’s not it?” I asked.

“Do you think the case isn’t closed?” Asked Gwen.

Sarah nodded and pointed at her.

“Did Preston tell you something he didn’t tell us?” I asked.

Sarah shook her head. “No,” I said.

“Then what is it?” Gwen asked.

Sarah shrugged.

“She doesn’t know,” I said. “Maybe she has a feeling about it.”

Sarah nodded.

“Preston was pretty confused,” I said.

“Not about Dill,” Said Gwen.

“Well we still have the tape Victora gave us,” I said. “Would it hurt to have Hymie look at it? I mean Sarah has never steered us wrong before…”

“I guess not,” Said Gwen.