Sunday, July 30, 2017

Leopard Detective: Predator or Prey, Chapter 4 - The Scarring Conclusion

“Where are you going now?” I asked.

“You know about shiva, Jewish mourning?” Detective Franklin answered.

“Of course. But isn’t the house still a crime scene?”

“Yes. Friends up the street are hosting. I’m going to go. I doubt there will be leads, but the family will appreciate it.”

“You can take me with you. I know a path back to the forest and we can talk about the case.”

It was true there was a path from their home to Rock Creek Park. But I wanted to visit the home myself.

On the drive we discussed the case. There was a strange shell company, no one could figure out what it was doing. The FBI has been brought in. But a secret about murder police, they don’t really care about why, they really just want to know who. They had produced a sketch based on my description and distributed to airports, police departments, and the intelligence community. With his distinctive scar, the suspect probably could not leave the country without being detected, although he could leave the area. But we knew nothing about him except that maybe he was Russian.

When we arrived, I slipped out of the car and carefully made my way among shadows, moving unseen. Scar man must do the same.

I arrived at crime scene. The entrances were blocked by police tape, but I climbed a tree and slipped in an open upstairs window. I wandered through the empty house. I smelled Goldman, his wife, each of the daughters. Downstairs, some others, frequent visitors. In Goldman’s office, his smell was very strong. The odors of his fear and blood were still strong. But there was another scent. I found the smell of a man, very different, but still a man. I could sense his pheromones too. He is a natural predator, like me. Nonetheless, at the moment of the kill the body releases strong scents. They were present. On a whim, I sniffed the file cabinet. It appeared undisturbed, but the man with the scar had looked into it. The scar-man’s scent was accompanied by something else. Something strange, but I had smelled it before.

I left the house and, still keeping to the shadows, made my way to Rock Creek Park. Scar-man also hides in shadows, never fully seen, even in plain sight. I didn’t have long to find him. Soon he would fade into the shadows completely. In the woods I found my tree and sat. Raccoons or some other scavenger had finished my deer. I was sated and had no time to hunt. I slept for a time and waited for nightfall.

Thanks for the image pixabay.com
I moved south and east, remembering where I’d encountered the smell before. I came out of the park on the east, north of the zoo. It was late. My instinct was guiding me, I can see the world in terms of space and smell. Then, someone walking nearby had the scent. It was dark so I could not see them, but from the sound of his walk I could sense he was wearing flowing robes – a priest. I smelled the odor faintly and followed it and found myself before a Russian Orthodox Church. So that was the distinct odor, the incense used in church services. What better shadow for scar-man to conceal himself?

The doors of the church are always open. I slipped silently through a side door. The church was dark and silent, but I could smell him. Great cats have the ability to make infrasound. That is noise below the range of human hearing. My phone is set to respond to commands at that frequency. I instructed texts be sent with my location to all of my contacts in the police department. They should arrive in a few moments.

Electronics make sounds at a frequency to high for the human ear. I heard one and began skulking towards it. I wanted to come close and take him when I heard the police close by. To kill him would have been easy, but it would not have served justice, nor would it have brought satisfaction to Goldman’s family. And Franklin would not be able to pay me without an arrest. I did need the money, I wanted to visit my home soon.

Predators are deadly prey. I moved soundlessly, but somehow the man with the scar knew I was there. No human would have heard him slide his gun from his coat pocket. But I heard it.

“Show yourself, and you may live,” he called out. His voice wicked thunder in the silent, empty church.

His gun was out and he was facing me. I gave an infrasonic roar. Inaudible to humans, it can stun prey. But scar man was no prey. I heard the safety go off on his pistol. I roared. But I threw my roar so bouncing off of the wall, it sounded like it came from his right.

As he turned, my muscles tensed and I leapt. I landed on him with my full force. He went down hard on his right side. The gun hand slamming hard on the stone floor, but not letting go. I placed my paw over his hand and unsheathed my claws. I would not kill him, but I would not hesitate to draw blood. He struggled, and he was very strong. But I weigh nearly as much as a man and he could not move. Of course, to kill him would have been easy – a nip of my jaw on his soft throat - and I had to fight myself not to do it.

I heard a car pull up and stop. Light footsteps outside, Detective Nguyen. The door opened and then the beam of a flashlight.

“Over here,” I called softly. In a minute scar man was handcuffed. On encountering me for the first time, people are generally paralyzed with fear and confusion. Scar-man was not.

Another car outside.

“Here comes Franklin,” Nguyen said, laughing a bit to herself.

“I must go,” I said abruptly. Franklin would ask how I knew where to look, I did not wish to tell him. To Nguyen I continued, “Check the file cabinet, even the inside, in Goldman’s office for prints. I expect you will find them.”


Then I slipped into the night and through the silent streets that were, for
now, almost home.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Leopard Detective: Predator or Prey, Chapter 3

I write my kids stories while they are away at camp. I've written about sushi eating contests to save the world and a super-secret Coast Guard nuclear submarine icebreaker. This summer, I wrote to them about a talking leopard that solves mysteries. If you are just joining us, you should really start here.

After my investigation the police released the corpse to the family, who, in the tradition of their faith, sought to have the body buried the next day. Detectives usually attend the funerals of murder victims. The murderer often makes an appearance. I doubted this would be the case. Scar-man was too canny for that. He was not a typical killer. So many murderers are the product of weakness and miscalculation. Not scar-man, he was careful, plotting killer. In a sense, perhaps he was like me.

Detective Franklin allowed me to sleep in the back of his car; carefully covered. He made inquiries related to the investigation. He also picked up a pair of steaks, which I devoured in the back seat of his car. Then we drove to the cemetery. I did not expect to gather evidence. But, after my “investigation” the person, the victim, the deceased, is in my head. They haunt me, and will do so for the rest of my life. The funeral brings me some relief and comfort.

When we arrived, I discretely slipped out of his car. I have been to most cemeteries around Washington now, and knew a route where I would not be spotted. As I made my way, slowly and silently to a tree from which I could hear the proceedings, I was surprised. A little girl was wedged in my path sobbing. I should have smelled and heard her from a great distance, but my own senses were confused, with the deceased’s essence still strong within me.

She sensed me and looked up, her red, wet eyes suddenly huge and alarmed. It was the youngest daughter, my heart swelled with sadness and love. I did something I rarely did, I spoke to someone I did not know well.

“Little one. You should be with your family. They need you and you need them.”

“What…” she began. This could not go on for long. They would come looking for her and she would come to her senses. I thought fast.

“Your father sent me to look after you. I know how must feel. I know that you are sad and miss him. Let me give you gift, something very few people have received. It will give you strength, but you must promise not to speak of this ever.”

“Will you eat me?” she asked in a tiny frightened voice.

Pictures courtesy of pixabay.com
I laughed, “Little one, if I were going to eat, the deed would have already been done. Fear not. Put your arms around my neck.”

She moved tentatively and embraced me. I began to purr. Great cats purr for many reasons, one is to calm prey within their clutches. It helps them meet their fate. It had the intended effect. I felt her arms soften, but her back became straighter.

“Now, little one. You must hurry back to your family. They have lost one beloved and are beginning to worry about you. Do not bring them greater worry; bring them strength. Whenever you need it, you can borrow strength from me.”

She released me, stepped back, and asked, "Are you Aslan?"

"No," I chuckled. "Aslan is a lion. I am covered in spots. Aslan is from Narnia, while I am from India." I could not lie to her and tell her that I am real and Aslan is not, for I am not certain of this. And I could not tell her that Aslan is a god and that I am not, because here too, I am not certain.

She turned away and walked back to the funeral, not skipping, but with a new confidence.

I made my way to my secluded spot and listened. It was about what would be expected.

Detective Franklin waited until everyone was gone so that I could make my way back to his car. As we drove I asked how the investigation was progressing, had they identified the man with the scar?


“That’s the amazing thing Spots,” Franklin said. “Everyone in the meeting you told me about remembers the man with the scar. But no one knows who he is. Everyone told me to ask someone else.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

Leopard Detective: Predator or Prey, Chapter 2

Today I present part 2 of Leopard Detective, the story I wrote the little Goofs while they were away at summer camp. You can read part one here!

Alone in the morgue with the fresh corpse of David Goldman, I knew what I had to do. But I hesitated. Mohammed had prepared the body as necessary. My “procedures” made quite a mess. Mohammed had mastered the art of both preparing the body for me and, when necessary, making it presentable after I was finished.

I read the search results on my phone. Goldman was typical in some ways, different in others. He had held jobs in the government and was an international trade lawyer. Happily married with three daughters, he did a fair bit of pro bono legal work. He had an autistic brother and volunteered to work with autistic children. A remarkable life in many ways: but not even a hint as to why he would be murdered.

I went close to the corpse and nuzzled, smelling deeply. There was the acrid smell of gunpowder, the metallic dried blood, and his own pheromones of fear and shock. I smelled people, several women – not strong, but present – the wife and daughters, and there was another person, very faintly.

There was nothing for it. I could delay no more. People see what I do as horrible and disgusting. The physical act, for me, is normal. I am a predator, devouring
the edible part of my prey is what I do. My hesitation comes from the aftermath. As I lifted my head from Goldman’s skull his entire life flashed before my eyes. There was his wife in a swimsuit at a beach, her hair wet, laughing, and slowly fusing with Botticelli’s Venus. Then his daughters were mobbing him on the couch and tickling him. Then his brother, as a teenager, smiled, pointed, and said, “My brother!”

I stumbled a bit, but landed on my feet. I am a great cat. Then I lay on the floor and let the life of David Goldman pass through me. Moments of great joy: his wedding and his children. And there were also moments of tremendous sadness, the recent death of his parents – and of his brother years ago. It is this that I cannot bear, why I hate what I must do. But it also moves me, for I now know this life and want to punish whoever ended it.

A life does not flow before me in any sort of order. But I caught a glimpse of the end and let it wash over me. He was at his desk. The family was away. A man came in, he was startled, but recognized him – barely. The man had a scar on his right cheek, somehow it fascinated and froze him – an evil eye. Goldman was surprised, could not move. The man asked, a pronounced Russian accent, “The shell corporation? You can overlook this?”

Goldman, stammered, “No, I really cannot.”

The man with the scar said, “You are an ethical man?”

Goldman, frozen and focused on the scar, nodded.

“I’m sorry,” the man said. Then the gun appeared. There was a blast, a sharp pain, and then darkness.

I was not done. I turned the memory around. He recognized the man with the scar. A big meeting a few days before at his law firm. He had called it, an anomaly, something was wrong. There was some sort of shell company that should not be there. From his memories I could not grasp the ins and outs. It was a Norwegian fishing conglomerate. He knew most of the people in the room, some well, others only a bit. He reported the finding and everyone agreed it was unacceptable and would have to be addressed before the deal could proceed. The man with the scar sat in the back, saying nothing. He wore the same things in both memories, a Navy blue suit and a light gray shirt, no tie. Goldman only noted that he seemed different from everyone else, apart. He meant to ask secretary to find out who he was, but he forgot. His eyes kept wandering to the scar.

That was everything. I sat, maybe for a few minutes, maybe for hours. Memories move outside of time, as I digested his life. I cannot shed tears, but I wished that I could.

Finally, when I was ready, I spoke to my phone, “Text Detective-Sergeant: You may come in.”


When they returned, Mohammed went to the body and began to prepare it for the funeral – restoring Goldman to the man his friends and family loved. I told Franklin and Nguyen everything I had learned. I did not mention the scent.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Leopard Detective: Predator or Prey, Chapter 1

I write lengthy, involved stories for the little Goofs when they go away to summer camp. Last year I wrote them a story about my deployment on a super-secret nuclear powered Coast Guard submarine ice-breaker that battled sea monsters. (Keep your eyes peeled - there's more of that coming as well!) The year before that I wrote to them about how their grandfather and I travelled to Japan to save the world - by eating sushi!

At some point last year I became entranced with the idea of a leopard detective. (I... um... think about animals in a whimsical way perhaps more than most adults. In the not so distant past, it was mostly cheetahs.) Leopard detective grew in my mind, I began to imagine his back-story. I talked about him incessantly. GoofGirl insisted he speak with a posh English accent. Finally, I just had to write it.

I knew, even before my phone rang, who it would be.

“Answer!” I called softly.

“Hey! Spots! We’ve got a live one, can you come in?” the familiar voice asked.

“Please tell me you want me to visit the crime scene. You know I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and could undoubtedly detect something unknown to your forensic techs. Or perhaps you need me to carry out surveillance? I am designed to track prey…”

“Ha ha. See you at the morgue.”

I always want to refuse, but I cannot. I am due to go home soon and need the money. I leapt down from my tree, leaving the deer I had killed stowed in the crook of the branch. There was still a bit more to eat. When my paws hit the ground, I let out a quiet chuff, a courtesy to let any animals nearby to stay clear. I would not be hunting tonight.

I padded quickly through Rock Creek Park, well away from the trails in case of any late night joggers or others who might visit the park in the small hours. I passed the strange sounds and smells of National Zoo. The world of humanity generates a cacophony of alien sounds and smells – far beyond what they, with their limited senses, realize. Yet it is the zoo, with its animals, some known to me but many alien, so intermingled with people, that I find it particularly disturbing. I try to give it a wide berth, but cannot when I am in a hurry. The southern terminus of the park is at the zoo, the closest point to the city morgue.

I began padding through the empty streets and alleys of the capital of the United States, carefully avoiding lights, hugging shadows. If I were not saving for a trip home, I might have just taken an Uber. Besides, the Detective-Sergeant would wait. He needed me just as much as I needed him.

-----

At the city morgue I went to the side entrance. A few people know of me there, but not many, and texted my contact. In a few moments, Mohammed arrived. I was glad to see him. He is one of my very few friends in this city.

“Cheetah,” he said smiling, “I am glad you are here. There is a great mystery.”

My name is not cheetah, nor am I cheetah. Mohammed, a tech at the city morgue, was born to Masaai warriors in Kenya and knows this. But in Hindi my kind is often confused with the cheetah. It is a joke between us.

He led me to the inner sanctum, where the new corpses are stowed. I knew everyone, Detective-Sergeant Franklin, Detective Nguyen, and assistant medical examiner Figeroa.

"His name is David Goldman, big-shot attorney, found in his home in Foxhall. He's a pretty big deal and no idea why anyone would shoot him. Shot from the front, through the chest. Nothing was stolen, no signs of forced entry. So looks like someone he knew. But he knew lots of people. Of course his associates aren't the type to kill anyone."

I asked my phone, "Search: David Goldman Washington, D.C. attorney."

Nothing.


"Please give me your new wifi password and then leave me,” and they did.

Monday, January 02, 2017

From the Files of the Galactic Empire Minister for the Environment

I finally saw RogueOne - ehh, if you must know. But being a student of public policy who is fascinated with government operations I always wonder about all the other stuff going on in the Galactic Imperial Government. Since RogueOne featured a lot of planet-scale mayhem, I wondered about the thankless job of Galactic Empire Minister for the Environment (GEME). Here are some notes from their files.

GEME: Lord Vader, building a Death Star takes lots of rare resources, the acquisition of which is having detrimental environmental effects across the galaxy. To avoid this we really need to look at green alternatives to ack, accchhh....

VADER: The Emperor has chosen to prioritize job creation and planet destruction over environmental issues.

----

GEME: Grand Moff Tarkin, destroying Alderan also destroyed a number of unique species that did not exist anywhere and that we had not taken samples of. In the future you should notify us of what worlds you plan to destroy so we can do an environmental impact study and... ack, ack agggh...

-----

GEME: General Veers, I've been reviewing your assault plans for Hoth. We're very concerned about the heavy treads of the AT-ATs on the surface ice in the fragile tundra environment. Would you consider changing your attack plans maybe to lighter tread vehicles?

VEERS: You would need to ask Lord Vader, I'm sure he can talk to you when he's done with Admiral Ozzel.

----

GEME: Jabba the Hutt, we have reports that you've been making unauthorized feedings to Sarlacc. Now that's a protected species so you'll need to desist and pay a fine. What's that cage opening? Are you keeping rare monsters as pets?

JABBA: HU! HU!

----

GEME: Emperor I've looked over the impact of that shield you are generating from Endor. There appears to be a semi-sentient species so extra conditions apply to any project there. Aaaaaa! Force lightning releases toxins into the atmosphere! Aaaaa!

EMPEROR: And now, annoying administrator... you will die.