It’s a Mystery . . .

I awoke this morning at 5:30 am.  This, after having turned off my room’s light at midnight, and having been awaken twice during the interim.  Translation:  Less than five hours of sleep.

Yay, me.

I’ve been nodding off this morning, but really can’t afford to take a nap.  I’ve got things to do, but that’s later in the afternoon.  Right now, I need to be awake for a host of other reasons, so it means I’ll just have to bear with it and endure.  I seem to be doing that a lot as of late – enduring – and while I know that life could be so much worse for me (so I am thankful that I am where I am in all of this), I’m still kind of worn out.  I can’t remember the last time I awoke and thought, “Wow, I had a great night of sleep and I’m really looking forward to the day.”

But then again, I honestly don’t know too many folks who do that, so maybe I’m looking for something that’s never existed.

I still haven’t worked out whether or not I’m going to create a new hobby-centric blog, but it’s still on my mind.  Honestly, I don’t know what I’d say, and I’d rather not set myself up for failure.  It’s not like this is a decision that has to be resolved immediately, but given that free time is becoming more of a luxury for me, I’d rather set something up when I can do it “right,” than putting together a half-assed page because I’ve no time to do better.  I don’t know why decisions like this always through me out of whack, but they do.

And it gets worse because I recently had an idea that would be perfect for such a blog:

Years ago, Games Magazine (is that still being published?) used to have a feature called, Photo Crimes.  This was a puzzle/narrative told with a series of photographs that documented some sort of criminal activity.  “Inspector Black” was the protagonist, and a typical set consisted of maybe six-to-eight black-and-white photographs that depicted the scene as the Inspector saw it, along with any other information to help the reader.

The first photo, for example, showed you Mr. and Mrs. Eberhall in their finery (including her nice set of pearls), having returned from a night at the opera.  The second photo showed an angry Mr. E reading a letter that had arrived during their absence; his ne’er-do-well brother was going to stop by for a visit.  Seems he owes his bookies, and he needs cash now.  The third and fourth photos clued us in to the fact that Mrs. E, who loved money more than her husband, had only recently taken out a new life insurance policy on him, and their maid – Mr. E’s lover – was angry that he’d suddenly ended their affair.  By the sixth photo, Mr. E was sprawled out on the floor, a bloody mess, with a candlestick holder next to him; this is how Mrs. E found him the following morning.  Worse, the jewelry box was missing!  Who did it – and why?

Everything needed to solve the crime was in (or missing) from the photographs, and the narrative beneath each picture provided additional information.  For some reason, “Murder, She Wrote,” reminds me of the series, as Jessica’s solution often hinged on some item, previously seen, that was either missing or moved once the crime occurred.  It was a great series – ultimately forming the basis of three Photo Crimes books – which were released in the 1980s.  Simple, straight forward, and with no cheating, the books were (and are) a nice diversion.

In addition to this, there were the four book-sets released by Dennis Wheatley, around the same time period.  These were case files, lacking a standard narrative, and it was up to the reader to resolve the mystery.  What made them unique, however, was the fact that all of them (at least in their original release) contained physical clues for the reader to remove and examine.  If a .38 cal. bullet cartridge was recovered at the scene of the crime, then there was an actual .38 bullet shell included in the book for you to handle.  Partial cigarette?  Yep, with tobacco (that fell out all over the place).  Ticket stubs, laundry ticket, or torn breakfast menu?  All there.  These were infinitely harder to solve, but readers were treated to the full investigatory experience as a professional investigator might – the difference was that there was no leg-work on your part.

Why this trip down Mystery Lane?  Because . . . guess who wants to write a mystery with the clues in hand?  I should say, “try to write a mystery,” because . . . well, because.

This all started three weeks ago when I was at Walmart, and crews were putting out summer related merchandise.  I saw boxes of cheap flip-flops, swimming shorts, and bikinis, and – in some bizarro way, this all entered my mind as “clues in a murder mystery game.”  A random flip-flop found at the scene.  A torn pair of swimming trunks with droplets of “blood” on them, tossed in the washer.  A bikini top found in the wooded area behind the house.

How could I not see them as potential clues?  This is fantastic!

Before you think, “Now slow down there, Doc – let’s give this a little more thought,” know that I did something like this once before.  I was at a Civil War reenactment when one of the vendors at the site decided to mark down some of their merchandise for quick sales.  One of those items – I kid you not – was a bad reproduction of a 1860 cavalry sabre.

Oh, it looked fine if you know nothing about the original, but for those with more than a rudimentary knowledge of 19th century edged weapons, it was a travesty.  And . . . it was going for $35 (down nearly a hundred bucks), so it should be no mystery that I ended up with one of them.  From the moment I saw it, I thought – “Gee, this would work in a mystery game,” an odd thing to think while surrounded by a lot of wet canvas and gunpowder.  But in that moment, I mentally crafted a situation where a reunion of former Civil War colleagues ended in murder, and my new sabre – while not the murder weapon – was to be worn proudly on the hip of the victim, as seen in a wartime photo (and major clue).  The whole project failed, largely because of my slow writing, and the fact that everyone I’d envisioned as taking part decided rudely to go off and live their lives.  That I’d planned a champagne level spectacle with a Kool-Aid budget might have been a problem, too.

Like, seriously?  I’m an artiste, people!  I cant’ rush perfection!

So this can be my redemption.  I ended up picking up several items – yes, including the bikinis (which we’ll not discuss) – for this scheme, which admittedly, is not as grand as the earlier version.  I want to create an “evidence bag” or a “cold-case box,” with everything tagged, bagged, and set up for examination; a case file with a narrative, a bona fide mystery, and a realistic victim (with a life, not just some cardboard character).  To this end, I’ve been hitting up the local Dollar Store (and clearance sections) for little things to make my “vic” seem like a real person.  A comb.  A beach bag.  A date book.  All of this in addition to the aforementioned flip-flops and bikini.  I’m creating pocket trash (the little stuff that fills out one’s wallet – business cards, phone numbers, receipts, etc.), too.  It’s sort of easy (I’ve done this for other projects), thus far, but it’s also fun.  Any friend who tackles this “case” will have everything before them like a real detective, and I think that’s pretty darn cool.

And yes, I’ve even got a few things for a box involving a male victim.

My problem is with the mystery part.  I have a good idea as to who my victim is: Her personality, what she brings to the table, and why a host of people would rather see her six-feet under.  What I don’t have is a clear-cut motive or antagonist.  There are so many things that I still need to figure out, and then there are things like the police reports, crime scene pics, and who-knows-what else.  I’d love to do it all myself, via the magic of computers, but I’ve got a feeling – especially when I need photos of the victim – that I’m going to have to call in a few favors.

There’s no rush for this project, either – it happens when it happens.  The only real downside for me is that I won’t be able to play.  I’m making a puzzle where I know the answers.  Were there a way to craft this so that the murderer was determined by random, though . . . hmm.

I’ve got to stop having ideas, I guess.


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