The Journey

Dispatches from the Wasteland – #4: The Continuation of the Thing That Perhaps Should Not Be Continued


Me again, still doing the NaNoWriMo thing, an experience that is both titillating and frustrating. I’m hitting my daily word count quota, but I’ve had to be very creative in doing so. This means that I might be working on the most bizarre tale I’ve ever told. (Which totally excites me.) But more importantly, I’d like to know what you think about this business of me posting snippets from a work in progress. Is it fun? Is it annoying? Is it too hard to follow, with me shoving unrelated posts into the gap between the installments? If you feel so moved, please sound off in the comments below.

All that aside, here’s the next snippet. Once again, I’m including the final paragraph from the last snippet in the hopes of providing at least minimal continuity. And more of the again, here’s a link to the beginning of this haphazard randomness, should you need it.



Virginia, smiling a non-smile: “Dearest Collin, let me catch you up a bit. Perhaps you weren’t listening to the narrator a few pages back when he explained that I have two doctorates in the behavioral sciences. He failed to mention the other doctorates I have, of which there are many. Universities are practically throwing them at me because I’m so astonishingly good at what I do. So this means two things. One, I have an entire wing of my house that has nothing but diplomas on the walls, which is actually something of a bitch when it comes to utility bills. And two, I was brought on this case to help you get your ass moving because everyone knows about the bourbon, Collin, not just the cleaning staff, although they were the first ones to make a status update on social media about it.”

Collin, not smiling at all, knew a third thing: He was most definitely not sleeping with this woman. It would be far too much pressure and the fallout risk was enormous, and what sane person would welcome that into their life or their bedroom? Granted, his own libido had led him down the very same path a few times. (Okay, a lot of times.) But you would think at some point that a man with any decency would finally learn the warning signs and quit making testicular-based decisions and stop-

Virginia was staring at him, this time with a real smile.

Collin: “What?”

Virginia: “I’ve been here twenty minutes and you’re already having an epiphany. I told you I was good.”

Collin: “I’m not having a… whatever that is. I was just thinking about something.”

Virgina: “Exactly. Now get that list of suspects. I already know about the crimes on the boat. I just need to look at the people who might have done those deeds and narrow down the list. Because really, in the end, it’s not about who had the opportunity, it’s about who would take advantage of the opportunity. Most people are too humane or too lazy to commit an injustice. It’s the energetic sociopaths that we have to worry about. Get the list.”

Collin walked over to his filing cabinet and pulled out one of the drawers with a resounding bang. (The paperweight cowering beneath the cabinet let out a whimper of social discomfort, and his newly-hired therapist, a dust bunny who had somehow managed to become certified via the internet, rolled into view to raise a fuzzy fist in objection. Collin unknowingly crushed said bunny with his high-dollar shoe as he wrangled a bulging file out of the storage facility. The paperweight lit a votive and began praying.)

Collin walked back to his workstation, lugging the bulging, and dropped the whole mess on the big-ass calendar covering most of his desk, a calendar he never actually used but still ordered every year. (Habits are habits). He then upended the folder and began to rummage about, resulting in a few of the binder-clipped components falling behind his desk and lodging themselves betwixt the office furniture and the wall, immediately forgotten and forlorn, at least from Collin’s perspective. Luckily, Virginia, with her profound expertise and supernatural abilities, was able to read the entirety of each document before it tumbled into the abyss, thusly preserving all aspects of the case in her steel-trap mind.

Collin, latching on to a single sheet of well-wrinkled paper: “Ah, here it is.” He thrust the document at the Woman Who Now Scared Him.

Virginia, accepting the handoff: “This smells like Chung-Yu’s on Maple Avenue. Have you been outsourcing?”

Collin, his mind more agile now that the primal urges had been temporarily put at bay, possibly for the first time in his life: “I have an affinity for bicycle-delivered Chinese, and perhaps there was an unintended transference of some kind. I would think you would know about this, what with the sushi you just ordered from what appeared to be the Japanese mafia. Speaking of, where is that sushi? It’s not like they have to cook it. You hack off a piece of fish and you roll it in some rice. What’s taking so long?”

Collin’s phone rang, somewhat muffled by the various documents strewn about his desk.

Virginia: “Perhaps that’s the sushi.”

Collin: “Why would they call me? You’re the one that ordered.”

Virginia: “I was merely making a joke to see if you have the slightest amount of whimsicality about you. The answer is no, and my research in that area is finished. Now answer the damn phone. I’m already annoyed that you use a landline in the first place, and now that your antique is bleating miserably and incessantly, I could easily cut someone. Save a life, and make it stop.”

Collin just stared at Virginia, perplexed.

Virginia accepted the optical challenge and stared back, although from a lower elevation, reclining artfully as she was in a dusty, mundane office chair that no one had bothered to utilize since the Korean War. After all, she had chosen to use quality hair products on her severely-disciplined mane, and any good stylist will tell you that high-end styling gel trumps anything else in the room. Virginia exuded confidence, despite sitting atop a chair cushion most likely composed of asbestos and the deadened souls of underpaid workers.

Collin exuded an air of confusion.  “I’m at a loss here. What were we talking about before Paul Mitchell did a voice-over about salon essentials?”

Virginia responded first with a rather athletic realignment of her legs, which may or may not have been a tribute to Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct but it was too murky to tell in the government-funded, substandard lighting. As the possible sneaky-peek was quickly shuttered, Virginia resorted to her Matron of Discipline persona. “Answer the phone, Collin. Or we’re never going to be able to end this chapter.”

Collin stumbled toward his desk (was that a paperweight on the floor that he just tripped over?), shoved yet another document out of the way (which Virginia thoroughly scanned before it hit the floor), and snatched up the apparently old-school receiver. “What do you want?”

Caller: “Really, now? Have we truly lost all social etiquette when it comes to answering the phone?”

Collin, finding at least a smidge of fortitude in this mind-bending moment of potential cooter-flashing and the troubling unknown status of sushi delivery, chose to take a stand: “Who are you, why are you calling, get to the point.”

Caller: “Well, then. If there’s to be no witty foreplay, which saddens me, I’ll get right to this point you relish, without any slap and tickle. I expect you to drop this case immediately and find something less troublesome to pursue.”

Collin glanced at Virginia, who appeared to be on the verge of another ribald display of muscular and uninhibited legwork, and he turned his back on her, because one can only process a certain amount of stimuli at any given time. “Let me try this again. Who are you, and why should I care about what you think?”

Caller, apparently knocking over a martini glass based on the sound effects, but this is probably not important to our story: “You shouldn’t care at all what I think. You should care about the photograph I have of you doing that thing that you shouldn’t have been doing.”

Collin, fully aware that his personal volume of indiscretions could compete in size with the Boston phonebook, hesitated slightly. Then again, this person could just be a nut job, with his vague reference to nothing. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Caller, now presumably martini-less, which was unfortunate, even if he was en evildoer: “Oh, I can give you an idea with just one word.”

Collin once again glanced at Virginia, who was thankfully no longer invested in tawdry leg aerobics and was instead sitting chastely, her eyes focused on what appeared to be a paperweight near Collin’s right foot. Collin was a bit perplexed at the intensity of her scrutiny, but as long as she was occupied with stone-gazing and hopefully not with eavesdropping, then he was fine with it. He brought the business end of his outdated communication device back to his mouth. “And what word would that be?”

Caller, chuckling, despite the loss of an adult beverage: “Croutons.”

A chill raced through Collin’s heart.

The line went dead.


Click here to read the next installment in this series…


11 replies »

    • Normally you would be right about me not knowing where I’m going, as I often write on the fly and who knows what is going to happen. But actually, I’m much further along in the book and the crouton mess has been resolved. (All of these snippets so far are from just the first chapter.) But I think you will eventually appreciate the backstory on the evil salad topping… 😉


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