Saturday, January 21, 2012

Crimerwriter's Debut Dagger competition

OK, so I decided to enter the Crimewriter's Debut Dagger Competition with my NanOWriMo novel.  It was expensive to enter.  Here is the entry, which includes the first 1 3/4 chapters and an expanded synopsis (wish me luck!):


Chapter 1:  Back Off
Tuesday, September 6, 5:17 PM,

             "Rune," Larry Thompson said, "back off.  You're asking too many questions and putting yourself in danger."
                   Rune looked up from her computer in her closet-sized office to see Larry looking over her shoulder. On her screen was an old clipping.  The headline read, "Four Renowned Cornell Mycologists Dead of Mushroom Poisoning!" Under that, the subtitle read, "Terrible Accident Claims Four Cornell Profs."
“What is this, some third rate pulp fiction novel?  Who are you, and what did you do with my friend Larry?” Rune asked, half joking, half sarcastic.
                   "Why are you worrying about this old accident?" Larry asked, pointing at the clipping. “I know Dr. McHaggerty’s teaching-assistant training sessions this week have piqued your interest, but that accident was thirteen years ago.”
                   “McHaggerty’s been talking about this for years,” Rune said. “He talked about it when I originally took Projects Mycology like four years ago. He talked about it again two years ago when I assisted during my senior year. But I was distracted then by other problems in my life.  True, he calls it an accident. But he explains how to avoid the accident, and I can’t believe that those intelligent, experienced professors would make the same mistake McHaggerty expects Projects Mycology 158 students to understand and avoid.  I think it was no accident; I think it was murder.  There is no statute of limitations on murder."
                   "You think they were murdered.”  It was not a question.  “The police insisted it was an accident.  They wouldn't listen when a number of us, including me, suggested murder.  We went round and round about it."
                   "If you thought it was murder then, why are you telling me to back off and butt out now? And why are you calling it an accident?  And Larry, are you actually threatening me?"
                   Larry reached over and pushed the door shut.  Rune looked up, surprised. Her office was so small that closing the door made her slightly claustrophobic.
She was not exactly afraid.  It was hard to be afraid of Larry; she liked him too much. 
Already, since Rune arrived for Teaching Assistant (TA) Training just over a week ago, Rune and Larry had reestablished the friendship they had begun when Rune first came to the College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry.  Larry was the head audio-visual guru at ESF, the college of Environmental Sciences and Forestry and Rune had been the only girl AV Geek at her high school.  That brought her into contact with Larry at ESF, but it was not that shared interest that had deepened their friendship. Larry was a good listener, a perceptive if usually reticent advisor and a gentle soul. Rune liked him, plain and simple.  And for some reason, Larry seemed to like Rune.
            Rune was pleased that her new office was right next door to Larry’s.  Besides being a good friend, Larry liked to bake cookies in his lab. 
Larry’s office, like Rune’s, was on the second, or entomology, floor of Illick Hall on the ESF campus.  The offices were just a short jog from the elevators. It was a convenient location for a man who spent much of his time pushing around carts of equipment. The door to Larry’s office, lab and AV storeroom was right next to hers.  If one stood in the little alcove off the main hallway, there were three doors almost together. The one on the left was Eilyn Otis’s. The center one, which was at right angles to hers and facing the hall, was Larry’s, and Rune’s door was at right angles to Larry’s and across from Eilyn’s.  The doors were fire doors, dark industrial grey metal.  No windows in the doors.  Neither Rune’s office nor Eilyn’s office had windows.  Rune was sure her office had been designed as a closet, and Eilyn’s as a small storeroom. 
Larry’s room had been designed as a lab, and had lots of windows, lab tables and glass-fronted shelves, gas fixtures, a desk and lots of storage space.  Although the main room was light and airy, the small office alcove where his desk was located was usually dark and cluttered.
Larry leaned close to Rune, as if to whisper in her ear, and then backed off suddenly, looking suspiciously around the room.  Then he leaned back toward her again.  "This place might be bugged," he whispered, so quietly Rune could hardly hear him, "Can you spare time for . . . " he paused, looking at his watch, "how about dinner?  King David’s?"
                   "You're not going to haul me off in a dark alley and murder me, are you?" Rune asked, jokingly.  A small shiver ran up her spine.  She'd known Larry Thompson more than four years, and he did not strike her as a murderer. Larry was unapologetically gay, swishy gay.  Not that a gay was incapable of murder, but Larry was too nice. He had a bit of a lisp, a way of standing when at ease and limp gay wrists when he wasn’t pushing equipment around, but he didn't dress to the nines like some of the gays Rune had met in San Francisco.  He wore baggy old-man pants, baggy old-man suspenders, a ratty old dress shirt with frayed and greying cuffs, and a ratty old suit jacket.  He was grizzled and balding and his thin hair hung in wisps about his slightly baggy face.  His eyes, however, were intense, dark grey and full of life and intelligence.
                   Rune thought of Larry as "sweet."  She could think of no one she knew who was nicer than Larry.  Suddenly, however, she also thought of him as a possible suspect in the murder of four professors.  Silly of course, but why else would he be threatening her, if in fact, that was what he was doing?  But the professors were from Cornell and he was at ESF; they were mycologists and he was an AV man.  Cornell was over an hour away, more than 50 miles.  It was too far for easy friendship between the two schools.  Rune felt slightly confused and disoriented, but rose and followed Larry out of her office and down the stairs of Illick to walk through the Syracuse University Campus and down the hill to Marshall Street.
                   Walking down from campus, they made it to King David’s new door, without Rune's being dragged into a dark alley, though they had passed several dark alleys with young hipsters squatting and smoking cigarettes behind decorative wrought-iron fences.  Rune laughed at her own fears, but she still had a creepy feeling.
             King David's had just moved upstairs after years and years on the ground floor.  Word was that Chipotle’s had offered King David’s a deal too good to refuse.  Upstairs, passing the new tables and chairs, and Larry chose a table in the back, away from the doors and windows, where the light was low.  He carefully scanned the other patrons.  "Pat yourself down," he said.  "I'd do it for you, but I wouldn't want you to think I'm coming on to you."  He said this with great solemnity, and Rune had to laugh.
                   "You're kidding, right?  Is this some kind of joke? Halloween is still almost two months away."
                   "No, I'm not kidding.  Pat yourself down.  I just want to be sure."
                   "What am I looking for?"
                   "A tiny mic like this," Larry said, holding out a miniature microphone.
                   "Really?" Rune sounded worried, even to herself.
                   "Don't worry," Larry said, "I've disabled this one."
                   Rune found no hidden mics, and they sat down.  Larry ordered her a sampler platter and himself a veggie sampler.
                   While they were waiting for the food, Larry leaned close and whispered to Rune, "You know, don’t you, that Dr. Calyx Karklins, one of the four professors from Cornell who were murdered . . . I mean who died, was my lover?"
                   Rune sat up straight and looked at Larry.  Although he was clearly gay in his speech and mannerisms, she had always thought of hi                                                                                                                                                                                          m as asexual.  Never had she seen him on or off campus with a partner.  It was hard to imagine him with a lover.  Not that she wanted to imagine it in too much detail.
                   "Were you down at Cornell?  I thought you were a permanent fixture here.  I thought you'd been here forever."
                   "I've been here twelve years.  I couldn't stand being at Cornell after what happened to Calyx.  Dr. Otis got me the job here.  I came primarily for Eilyn." He said, pronouncing the name “AY-lin.”
                   "Eilyn?  Dr. Otis's wife?"
                   "Yeah, we were  . . . um . . . close . . . friends."  Larry turned brilliant scarlet.
                   "Larry!"  Rune exclaimed.  Larry turned his face away, and when he finally turned back, he had composed himself.
                   “Moving right along . . .” Larry said, “What I wanted to tell you is that someone around here is not going to be happy that you’re poking your nose into something they consider not your business.  Seriously, Rune, it could be dangerous.”
                   “That someone couldn’t be you, could it?” Rune asked, smiling.  “Where we you the week of August 19th, thirteen years ago?”
                   “I was in North Carolina with my mother who had a brain tumor.  I was there most of that summer, and there are hundreds of witnesses who saw me that week, because they had a big fundraiser to help my Mom pay for her medical bills.  She was a social worker who had helped many families in the area, and people turned out in droves.  I was on stage helping my mother to stand.”
                   “Oh dear,” Rune said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know.  What happened to your Mom?”
                   “They raised enough money for the operation, but when the doctors opened her skull, the tumor was bigger than they thought it was.  It had spread throughout more than half her brain.  They took out what they could and closed her up again.  Before the swelling had even gone down, she fell from the hospital fire escape—or jumped.  Outside her window.  She died.”
                   “I’m so sorry, Larry.”
                   “It was the same day Calyx died,” he said. He looked bereft.
                   Rune got up, went around the table, and hugged Larry.  He buried his face against her belly. His shoulders trembled.  Run stroked his back. A few tears came to her eyes.  She always seemed to feel the pain and grief of others more strongly than most people appeared to.
                   The meals came, and Rune sat back down.  They ate a few minutes in silence.
                   “But Larry, why did you tell me not to ask questions? I was just curious how four renowned mycologists who should have known better could actually have poisoned themselves.  I only wanted to turn over a few stones.”
                   “Some stones are better left unturned,” Larry said.  There was a stubborn set to his jaw that Rune never seen before.
                   “You didn’t kill them?” she asked.
                   “No,” he said, “but someone did. I’m absolutely sure of it.” Again, that shiver.  The cold fingers up her spine.
                   “Why are you warning me?”
                   “Because I like you.  I care about you.  I don’t want anything untoward to happen to you.”
                   “And you think it might?”
                   “Yes.  If you keep poking around, yes.”
                   “But it happened at Cornell, not here.”
                   “No, it happened in the mountains, up in the Adirondacks.  On a backpacking trip.  It was a long backpacking trip.  Several people here were involved in various ways.”
                   “Who?”
                   “Rune,” Larry said sharply, “Leave it!  Leave it alone.”
                   “Okay, Larry.  I’ll be more careful.”  Rune decided to move her questioning undercover.  “Maybe.”
                   “Don’t be more careful, Rune.  Stop.  Give it up entirely.”  Rune nodded, but was unconvinced.  Larry stared at her.
                   Rune shook her head a bit.  She couldn’t help her self.  Larry shook his. They stared into each other’s eyes with such intensity that finally, Rune had to look away.
                   “It would be in your best interest to believe me,” Larry whispered softly, still looking intently at Rune.  His eyes seemed to grow huge as she looked back at him, as if they were trying to tell her something, if she could just understand what it was.

Chapter 2:   Dr. McHaggerty, Lesson 1, and the Four Dead Professors Again
Chapter flyleaf:  illustration of Destroying Angel, Amanita phalloides
First day of classes, Wednesday, September 7

       “Four world-renowned mycology professors at Cornell died of mushroom poisoning after a joint mushroom-collecting trip on a backpacking expedition,” Dr. Colin McHaggerty said, in booming voice, looking out over the faces in the Marshall Auditorium.  On two of the three screens behind him, images of a grinning Grim Reaper holding glowing white mushrooms appeared. In the center screen was an enlarged copy of a newspaper article with the headline, "Four Renowned Cornell Mycologists Dead of Mushroom Poisoning!" It was the same article that Rune had pulled up on her computer when Larry had come in to give his dire warning about her questions.  Fog drifted out onto the stage, curling, wafting and thickening. It poured in a milky waterfall off the stage into the first row of students, spreading into the audience.  The lights dimmed slightly and the room seemed to grow suddenly cold. Rune shivered.
       McHaggerty paused dramatically.  He wore black pants, a black shirt, a black tie with white mushrooms on it and a light-weight black cape that fluttered, lifting high behind him in an unseen breeze.  His thick, wavy, grizzled and somewhat wild red hair and beard created a red-gold halo around his face.  The already low lights in the auditorium dimmed to near darkness and a light came up under McHaggerty’s face, shadowing his eyes making his face look skeletal. A groan rose from the students in the audience, almost a shriek.
       “Apparently,” McHaggerty said, “many different kinds of mushrooms were collected that day.”  He paused again, turning his face from left to right.  The students could no longer see his eyes, which were deep in shadow as if there were only empty sockets.  “Including Amanita phalloides, the Destroying Angel!” He thundered. Photographs of the destroying angel mushroom, glowing white against a black background, appeared on the screen.
       Another long pause followed and then the lights came up to full brightness and the light under McHaggerty’s face disappeared.  Two warm yellow spotlights appeared on his face from above.
       “Some mushrooms, “ Dr. McHaggerty, said, smiling widely, his voice now cheerful and light “are delicious and wonderfully edible.”  On the screens to the left and right appeared photos of edible mushrooms, the common garden mushroom, morels, shaggy manes, chicken of the woods.  Each was labeled with the common and Latin names.  In the center pane was a photograph of a plate of cooked mushrooms, garnished with parsley and set on a red and white checked tablecloth.
       “Some mushrooms,” McHaggerty said, and the lights dimmed to half-brightness, “while not poisonous, are distinctly unpalatable or inedible.” More labeled photos appeared.
       “And some mushrooms,” McHaggerty continued, as the lights fell to darkness again and the light under his face came up, “are deadly poisonous.”  The screens to the left and right showed the destroying angel, the death cap, the fly agaric and other deadly mushrooms.  The Grim Reaper came up on the center, holding white mushrooms in his right hand and the limp body of a deceased victim in his left arm.
       McHaggerty paused again.  The lights slowly came back up, and the chin light faded away.  McHaggerty, moving slowly, pulled on a pair of thin beige rubber gloves.  From a shelf in the podium, he took a handful of white mushrooms.  The three screens behind him showed a close-up video of his face and gloved hands, holding the mushrooms.
       “Amanita phalloides,” he said, thundering again, “is so poisonous that even touching it can be dangerous.  Some of the toxins can be transferred to the skin, and from the skin to the mouth or to the food you are going to eat.”  Behind him, the three images each show a different photograph of Amanita phalloides, labeled with common names, and the Latin name.  “Amanita phalloides is a common mushroom and can be found in woods, fields and in your own backyard.”
       Again, Dr. McHaggerty paused dramatically.  Then he walked out from behind the lectern, strode to the edge of the stage, and leaned out so far over the edge toward the audience that it seemed he might tumble off the stage into the laps of the students in the front row.  He was still holding the Amanita phalloides in his right hand, gesticulating with it, and the closest students leaned visibly away from him.  Their faces looked stricken.  Rune, sitting onstage with half the other teaching assistants, elbowed Bart on one side and Cassie on the other and they all snickered and giggled, covering their mouths with their hands.  No one was looking toward them.  All eyes were riveted on Dr. McHaggerty.  It was the first day of classes at the beginning of the semester in September.  The students, looking amazingly young, had never seen McHaggerty in action.  They’d heard through the grapevine, as students always did, and in increasing numbers, that the class was good, but they hadn’t known just how riveting it would be.
Rune thought Dr. McHaggerty was a little overly dramatic, but that was better than Dr. Johnson, who taught plant and mushroom anatomy.  He stood at the front of the room with his lecture notes in his hand and read them in a monotone.  By the end of the class, 83 percent of the students were asleep.  He didn’t publish his class notes online, either, like McHaggerty did.  But some kid front and center always managed to get the notes and put them online for the kids who fell asleep. Besides, Rune liked a little drama and tended to overdramatize things herself.
       “Can anyone tell me,” McHaggerty asked, “how those four doomed professors could have avoided dying of mushroom poisoning?”

Death Angel Synopsis

When Rune Carmichael first returns to the College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry to study for a PhD and work as Dr. McHaggerty’s teaching assistant, McHaggerty reminds her of the deaths of four world-renowned Cornell University Mycology professors thirteen years earlier. The deaths seem suspicious to Rune, but as she begins to questions them, her AV guru friend, Larry Thompson warns her to let sleeping dogs lie. 

Meanwhile, Rune’s life suddenly revolves around Mycology Professor Colin McHaggerty.  Everyone seems to love McHaggerty, undergrads, parents, grad students, TAs, faculty and administration.  Rune loves him herself.  But the other professors, teaching assistants and even her own research project take a back seat to the all-encompassing McHaggerty.  The married McHaggerty seems almost to be courting Rune, taking her to lunch, to dinner and to the movies.  She is already pushing him away, when she learns that her best friend Jody is having an affair with McHaggerty and is having trouble breaking it off. 

When, after an upsetting incident in one of the female-TA apartments, McHaggerty and Eliza, one of the TAs, turn up in the hospital with mushroom poisoning, Rune refuses to believe the poisoning was “a terrible accident.” She recognizes that McHaggerty knows better than to poison Eliza and himself. 

Although busy with her teaching duties, research and classes, Rune begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding McHaggerty’s poisoning.  As she starts poking around, she receives a series of warnings.  First, she and her TA-partner, Bart eat pizza sprinkled with mind altering “Magic Mushrooms” from the Acropolis. She becomes frighteningly disoriented.  Someone wants to let them know, she realizes, how easily they could be poisoned.  Then someone smashes a truck into Rune on her motorcycle—hit and run. Other warnings include notes, letters and threats to “mind her own business.”  Rune survives the mushrooms and the crash and continues looking, forming an investigative team with Bart and some of the other TAs.

The team discovers that McHaggerty, whom they all believed to be well loved, has many enemies and that the college is rife with unsuspected excitement and sordid intrigue.  McHaggerty turns out to be a rabid Don Juan who has affairs with students, faculty, faculty wives and parents. Rune’s trust, damaged by a recent divorce, is further damaged by what she learns about McHaggerty and others at the college, but receives a boost from Silas, a lucky witness to the hit and run and from her TA-partner Bart. 

Rune and her team of students investigate many leads. First there is Angel, the enraged TA who tries to shoot McHaggerty when she finds out about his philandering. Then there are the husbands and lovers of all of McHaggerty’s liaisons.  There are jealous professors and angry administrators.  There are lovers who feel jilted and colleagues who feel cheated. The team tries to learn the possible alibis of all the suspects.  Then they scrutinize the ones without alibis.

Meanwhile, Rune learns more about the original thirteen-year old poisonings from Eilyn, who is a close friend of Larry’s and whose office is across the hall from Rune’s.  Eilyn was present at the original poisonings. But Eilyn is beat up and escapes to a women’s shelter.

Though the police offer little help, considering McHaggerty’s poisoning to be an accident, Rune continues searching. As far-fetched as it seems, she wonders if the current poisoning might be somehow linked to the 13-year-old quadruple murder.  And what, she wonders, is her friend Larry’s connection to all of this? 

Can Rune survive when an enraged murder suspect catches her digging through his private office files in his locked office at three AM?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chapter 12, Day 5, part 2, Croquet and Schmoozing

This is an unfinished chapter

Chapter 12, Day 5, part 2, Croquet and Schmoozing

           
When Rune and Eilyn wandered back down the trail to the party grounds, the games were in full swing.  Dr. Otis and some of his graduate students were holding out against Dr. McHaggerty and his TAs and grad students in a raucous game of volley ball.  Larry, Dr. Tedeschki, Dr. Hawk and Dr. Warner were playing a modified version of feather bowling with crow feathers gathered below the crow’s nest across the street at the edge of the 300-acre swamp.  Because of the breeze, they had weighted the crow's feathers with small lead sinkers to keep them from blowing away and were using croquet balls.
A bunch of kids were playing badminton the front year—there were four nets strung across the wide front lawn.  People were playing horseshoes in three parallel pits and the undergrads were milling around, playing softball, volleyball, and some apparently playing a rowdy game of sardines.  And some were just laying about chatting and sucking down brews. No one seemed to be paying attention to whether the underage kids were drinking or not.  There certainly seemed to be enough beer for everyone, including the kids.
           
Elizabeth and a number of the faculty wives were playing croquet (apparently, they had plenty of balls). Sashaying past the dessert table, Rune and Eilyn helped themselves to a handful of brownies, chocolate chip cookies and lemon bars and headed over to join the ladies at croquet.  They were just starting up a new game.  Melanie Sampson joined them, and cramming a brownie in her mouth, Rune asked her about her Italian heritage. Melanie said that her grandparents were from Northern Italy and had mostly blond hair and blue eyes, like the Swiss and Germans.  Rune replied that she too had some of that Northern Italian blood.
           
Rune and Melanie talked about their family trees and the international connections of their relatives ((say this better!!?)) until a low, angry voice caught their attention.  Rune looked up to see Dr. Otis dragging Eilyn by the arm away from the group of croquet women. He was apparently trying to speak quietly, but there was such urgency and anger in his voice that Rune could here every word.
           
"Where were you," Dr. Otis asked, "and who were you with?"
           
Rune remembered that Dr. Otis's back had been to them playing volleyball when they'd come down the trail together.  If Dr. Otis thought that Eilyn might be having a liaison or an affair at the picnic, with whom did he think it might be? She counted off all the professors in her mind; all were accounted for in volley ball, feather bowling and other obvious activities.  The male TAs too, were caught up in their activities in plain sight.  Did he think Eilyn was bisexual?  Or fooling around with undergraduates?  Or making drug deals?  Or what?  Rune was confused.
           
She sidled a little closer, pretending to chase a croquet ball she'd accidentally hit toward them.  She wanted to hear Eilyn's response.  
           
"I was with Rune," Eilyn said, in quiet, confident voice, sounding relaxed.  "We had some female stuff to talk about, you know, girly things."
           
"Like what?" Dr. Otis hissed.
           
"Who likes whom.  What to do when you're being hassled by a man who doesn't interest you . . ."
           
"Who's hassling who?  Is it you? Or Rune?"  Rune was wondering if she and Eilyn had talked about McHaggerty at the movies and afterwards or something else--she didn't remember any mention of McHaggerty.
           
           
"Eilyn, it's your turn," Elizabeth called in a loud voice, and Eilyn turned away from Dr. Otis and went over, calmly surveyed the croquet balls, and gave hers just the right whack. Rune noticed her jaw was a little tight and her eyes slightly more squinted than usual.  Dr. Otis stood nearby until someone from the volleyball game called and he walked, somewhat reluctantly, it seemed to Rune, back to the game.  Apparently, the volleyball players had just taken a short break for dessert and coffee and were ready to roll again.
           
Rune, standing beside Elizabeth, told her what a great picnic it was, as always was.  Elizabeth smiled and Rune asked her about her upcoming show.  Elizabeth was an artist and art professor. Her two main areas of expertise were printmaking and huge abstract paintings, but she dabbled some in all the visual arts and taught not only at Syracuse University, but also taught nature art classes at Beaver Lake Nature Center and other venues.  
Years ago, Rune had learned that Elizabeth was five years older than Dr. McHaggerty.  She was in her late fifties and although still an attractive woman, was beginning to show her age.  She was thin and frail-looking, but Rune knew she was not as frail as she looked.  Her hair was grey and moving toward white, especially at the temples.  Her eyes were a sparkling grey.  Her figure was shapely and her breasts small and still erect. Rune had seen both photographs and paintings of Elizabeth naked, not only at McHaggerty's, but in various art shows and other local venues.  She a regal bearing.  Rune liked best Elizabeth's own self portraits, especially the rather abstract ones where the naked figure emerged for contemplation only to those who took the time to examine the paintings carefully.  The body was all there, all it's parts, and in the right positions, but disguised by slashes of color and odd contrasting shapes.
           
Once, Rune had asked Elizabeth why she posed nude and she said it was only fair that if she asked others to do it, that she do it too.  After that, Rune had posed nude for her a number of times, both for Elizabeth alone and for her figure drawing classes.  Elizabeth paid her, and the money was nice too, a small supplement to her scholarships.  So, now naked paintings and sculptures of Rune, too, decorated galleries and people's homes, and she had seen them as far away as Cape Cod and Acadia in Maine.  Rune's breasts, larger and heavier than Elizabeth's, already at 22 ((?)) drooped more than Elizabeth did at 58 or however old she was.  Rune thought, ruefully, that when she was 58, she would look like those horrid playboy cartoons of the old women with the terrible pendulous breasts. ((Do the math with McHaggerty’s age and Elizabeth’s))
           
Elizabeth told her about her newest work, upcoming shows and openings and invited her to come and serve wine.  Rune agreed.  Any excuse for a party was fine with her.  And she loved Elizabeth's work, so she would enjoy an opportunity to see it.  

                Elizabeth was on Peter Schilja's graduate committee.  He took classes from her.  And it was Elizabeth’s classes, among others, that Rune had added to her busy schedule as an undergrad and now missed in her graduate program.  She asked Elizabeth if she could sit in on her classes occasionally.  Many of the longer studio classes were in the afternoons when Rune had her field trips and labs, but there were few mornings, evenings and weekends.  Elizabeth told her she would give her a print-out of her schedule of classes, though they both knew she could look it in the catalog or online.
                The next round of balls took Rune to stand next to Karen Kilmer.  Karen was the entomology department office secretary and her office was kitty corner across from Rune’s.  Rune's official mailbox was in the office behind Karen's desk, so Rune was in and out of there multiple times a day already, in the short time she'd been there.  To alleviate the traffic around Karen a bit, and to save herself the time on hurry-days, Rune had attached a wipe off message board, a pad of paper and a pen and a basket to her door for various kinds of messages.  Some of the professors had fancy professional plastic baskets that hung over their door, but Rune had found in someone's trash a perfect woven basket that must have been used as a file basket at one time, and she hung that over the door.  She’d also found in the gutter near her apartment some flower barrettes, the pinch on kind, and she'd pinched these onto the back left corner of her basket to make it look homier and more welcoming.
                Karen was only a couple years older than Rune, but she already had four children.  She worked until 3:00, most days, so she could go home, make dinner and be with her kids.
                Rune liked Karen, she had one of those bubbly personalities Rue wished she had.  Although Rune was usually cheerful, she felt morose compared to Karen.  Of course, Karen’s cheeriness could wear on her when things weren't going well. 
                Rune asked Karen about her kids.  Karen got out the latest bath of photos in a little booklet form the photo store.  There were big grins, scraped knees, loose teeth, new oversized teeth, splashy swimming scenes, badminton.  Almost at the end, like an afterthought, was a picture of Karen's husband Mike with his boat and another of him with a big fish and a big grin.  If those pictures were any indication, the children were a hugely important part of Karen's life.
                Rune wanted to have kids someday, but maybe two.  Not four.  She couldn't imagine four.
                She asked Karen what else was new and learned they had a new larger house out in Baldwinsville, within bicycling distance of the children's school and where there were walking trails through the woods.  She asked Rune if she would come out and help her identify the plants in the yard and in the nearby woods and Rune said she would.
                "There's lots of mushrooms," Karen said, "and insects."
                ((Add Karen Kilmer to the character list, she will reappear again in the reception of threatening later etc))
                "Where're your kids now?" Rune asked.
                "They're home with Mike, Eloise is sick, just a little earache and stuffiness, you know, a head cold.  She's kind of snotty and icky, so Mike said he'd stay home with them.  I came because Dr. McHaggerty invited me, maybe because I'm friends with Eilyn and Larry and you."
                Karen was new since Rune had been here before, and even if she had been there, Rune didn't have an office on the second floor when she was an undergrad.  But even though Rune had only known Karen about two weeks, she liked her and enjoyed her company.  She sometimes leaned on the side of Karen's desk or in the doorframe of her office and chatted with her just because she was nice.  Or because Rune was avoiding something she didn’t want to do to.
                The next round of ball whacking had Rune standing by Mrs. Z (and she said . . .)
                Then Mrs. Warner said . . .
                Rune noticed Karen and Eilyn standing together talking.
                When the game ended, Rune was thirsty and headed for the drink coolers.  She decided what she needed wasn't beer or wine coolers or woodchuck cider or lemonade or coke, but water.  She took a bottle of Poland Spring water.  She knew that even if it started out pure way up there in Maine, those plastic bottles out-gassed toxins into the water.  Still, it was handy and she was thirsty.
                When she looked up, she saw that Bart was standing beside her.  He reached for a beer, and pulled out a Heineken.  "Bart," Rune wheedled, “I don't want a whole beer; may I just have a sip of yours.  He handed it over and Rune took a gulp and handed it back.
                "Sip?  Sip!?!" Bart exclaimed, in a voice of fake offense, “you almost drank the whole thing in one gulp."
                "Well, take another," Rune said, smiling sweetly.  "That was all I wanted."
                "Any excuse for a party," Bart said, helping himself to a second beer.

((THIS CHAPTER IS UNFINISHED!!!))
add to this chapter (or in the earlier chapter with Eilyn):

Ø  interactions with McHaggerty and the girls and women, either here or in the earlier chapter with Eilyn.
Ø  introductions to other major characters.

Chapter 13, Day 5, part 3, Night visitor (NaNoWriMo 2011, Death Angel)




What follows is an entire chapter.  I realize that's a lot to read online. First draft, still many things to be fixed.

Chapter 12, Day 5, part 2, Night visitor (NaNoWriMo 2011, Death Angel)

Saturday, September 10 11:15 PM

Chapter flyleaf illo:  raccoon

“You save yourself or you remain unsaved.” ― Alice Sebold

 “It already is bigger than everything else. It lives in front of me, behind me, next to me, inside me every single day.” ― Daisy WhitneyThe Mockingbirds


            
            When the festivities of the Mycology Picnic were dying down and the stragglers were leaving, Rune said goodnight to Elizabeth and McHaggerty, who were themselves still saying goodbye to last departing guests, shouldered her backpack, put on her headlamp with a red gel, but didn’t turn it on, and headed up the trail to the lean-to.  Once she was out of sight from the lights of the house and party, she paused to allow her eyes to adapt to the dark.  She knew that in twenty minutes, she’d be able to see as well as a cat in the dark—or, nearly as well, close enough. But she didn’t have to wait that long.  The trail was wide.  The McHaggerties kept it mowed until it became too steep, and by then, she could see well enough to navigate the trail, which was still well-trimmed against encroaching branches that could poke an eye.
                      Rune had stayed at the lean-to before, on a number of occasions over the last few years of her undergraduate work, and remembered the first time.  It was in the fall of the year she had first taken Mycology 158 with Dr. McHaggerty.  It was during her first McHaggerty picnic when McHaggerty had taken her, Larry and about 5 other students including Jody and Bart out at the end of the evening to the lean-to.  Almost everyone else had left, and McHaggerty built a fire and he, Larry and the six students ((Name the others?)) had roasted marshmallows and made s'mores with supplies that McHaggerty had secretly brought in his backpack.  They drank a little wine, sang some songs and went back to McHaggerty's and on back to campus flushed with happiness and good feelings.
           Some time later, Rune had told McHaggerty that she liked to camp and had camped all her life.  She'd asked if she could stay in his lean-to sometime, and he'd readily agreed.
           On a fine sunny afternoon one weekend in October, Rune rode out on the Indian.  It was Indian-summer warm, the fall colors resplendent.  Elizabeth had invited Rune for dinner, and they'd grilled round steaks with thin slices of garlic in little slits in the meat and parsnips and carrots from the garden, wrapped in several layers of foil with butter and garlic chunks and laid on the coals. A colorful tossed salad with radishes from the McHaggerty’s garden and mushrooms from their yard and small cooked bits of summer squash complemented the meal.  One of McHaggerty's favorite meals, Rune recalled.  They'd sat out back admiring the sugar maples, which were bright red at the top, orange in the middle, yellow at the bottom and in green inside. Rune had set up her small tripod and taken pictures, first of the trees, and then of Dr. and Mrs. McHaggerty, first in their Adirondack chairs and then standing with a pitchfork in front of their house glowering.  That picture had been put on the flyleaf of the school yearbook that year.
           McHaggerty and Elizabeth walked Rune out to the lean-to just before sunset, and they'd all three carefully climbed on the roof to watch the sun set over the hills. It has been the reddest sunset Rune had ever seen.
           Then Elizabeth and McHaggerty had left, and Rune had set up camp in the lean-to.  It didn’t' take long; she laid out an air mattress, a sleeping bag, and a canteen.
           Suddenly, it was pitch dark, and Rune heard appalling noises in the woods, screeching and shrieking and howling and the send of footsteps, sometimes quite loud and close.
           Rune was terrified.
           She'd been camping all her life, since she was 6 weeks old, but it suddenly occurred to her that she had never before camped alone.  Never. Family or friends have always surrounded her.
           She told herself to stop being so foolish, and that she was a big girl now, and not afraid of the dark.
                       But she was unaccountably terrified of the dark.
                       She wondered if there were ever any bears around here, or wolves or coyotes or wild dogs or escaped convicts.
                       The woods were alive with sound.
                       There were hoots and whistles, cracklings, stampings and snortings.  Did bears snort?
                       Wild pigs?
                       Rune was in wildlife management at the time, and tried to remember everything she'd read.  Wild pigs were dangerous, but she didn't believe they lived around there.  There weren't supposed to be any dangerous animals nearby.  But what about rapists and murderers?
                       Rune shivered.  It was incredibly unbelievably cold. It had been such a warm day.  She curled into a ball inside her sleepingbag with the bag’s thick hood over her head and the drawstrings pulled tight around her nostrils. She listened to the night noises, the loud clatterings of branches and twigs and leaves, the snorts and screeches.
                       She laughed now, remembering.  Now she knew that the sounds were made by screech owls, deer and raccoons, none of which normally dangerous.  But that night, they seemed monstrous in her mind.
                       She had wanted to go home, desperately.  Not just back to the dorm, but home to her parents.
                       But she embarrassed to leave in the middle of the night.  Ashamed to admit her fear.  So she stayed, and eventually slept.  And woken up to a hard rain.  She was soaked and bedraggled by the time she’d hiked back to McHaggerty’s for breakfast, but secretly exultant that’s he’d camped alone for the first time ever.
                       She'd like to think that that was last time she'd ever been afraid. But it wasn't.  She wasn't afraid of the dark most of the time, but if she'd seen a scary movie or read a scary book or was just feeling low for some reason, she could work up a good fright not only in the woods, but also at home.
                       Still, Rune generally felt much less afraid in the woods at night now

            Rune folded her sleeping bag and sat in the dark and meditated, counting breaths and letting her thoughts float through, observed but not followed.  That was the idea, anyway.  She floated along on the surface of her thoughts, hearing the screech owls and the great-horned owls and barred owls calling back and forth.  She knew more owl calls now than she had that first time.  She named the sounds without losing herself in them.  Then she suddenly surfaced to realize she had been dragged below by an errant thought to which she'd inadvertently attached herself.  She'd float up, observe and slip away again.  
            The darkness grew velvety and rich.  She became increasingly aware of smells, a smell of soil, the smells of mushrooms and worm castings, a musky smell of some animal, maybe a woodchuck.  The sweet fragrance of an autumn flower or a very sweet grass or fern.  The crashings in the woods behind the lean-to were probably raccoons.   She could smell the damp and slightly rotted smell of the old logs of the lean-to. The memory of the shower scene in Psycho, the knife going up and down, the hands frantically covering the breasts, which ironically, McHaggerty had taken her to see a the Manlius in some rerun festival early in their friendship, flitted through her mind and she felt a momentary sense of panic and dread and then watched it drain away again as she slowed her breathing.  She’d never let anyone take her to another horror movie.  Breathe in; breathe out.  Why would anyone want to be frightened intentionally? Adrenaline rush.  No thanks.  Breathe in; breathe out.  The fear lingered around the edges of her thoughts, and then vanished as she inadvertently followed a more cheerful thought of the big breakfast Elizabeth would prepare for her in the morning.  Smiling, she returned yet again to her breath.
            She didn't time her meditation, she just decided the moment had come to lie down, and crawled into her sleeping bag and closed her eyes.  She'd taken off her jeans, folded them carefully, and put them under her head for a pillow.  She wore the rest of her clothes, including her sweater and socks, because of the chilliness of the night.
            She woke some time later, listened to the night, turned on her side and drifted away again.  Later, she turned to her other side, waking only enough to notice the chill air on the skin of her cheeks.
            The next time she woke up, she was not alone.  

            Sleepily, Rune started to sit up, to look around the dark lean-to, to listen. But someone pushed her down and laid on top of her, fumbling for the sleeping bag's zipper.  All Rune's fears from the first time she stayed here flooded back and she screamed.  A hand clamped over her mouth.  Another hand snaked into her clothing from the top of the sleeping bag.  Rune struggled, but she was trapped, held tight in the bag, and whoever held her was stronger than she.  The hand wriggled among the layers of clothes until it found her skin, the skin near her collarbone.  
            The hand stroked in an odd way, pressing rhythmically, then slid down into her bra to cup her breast.  Rune struggled and fought.  She felt herself becoming sleepier, lethargic, and wondered if she'd been drugged.  She went limp, lay still, and the hand came off her mouth.  The weight lifted and the sleeping bag was untwisted and unzipped.  Suddenly, Rune rolled to the side, scrambled up, and ran, tripping over the edge of the lean-to and sprawling on the ground.  She was desperately sleepy and dizzy, but she had to get away. She crawled on her hands and knees and managed to get up and run into the woods.  She crashed through the underbrush.  Someone followed, with a flashlight.  
            Rune stood, swaying, weak and woozy, with her back to a large tree and reached up to her collarbone.  Just under the collarbone, she found a patch of some kind, stuck to her skin. She peeled it off and folded the sticky sides together, wrapped it in a leaf and jammed it in her bra.  She wasn't wearing pants, and had no other pockets but wanted to save it to examine later.  She didn't move.  She waited.  Whoever was nearby was waiting too.  
            Rune clung to the tree.  She had managed ever so slowly to turn around without making a sound.  She could feel moisture seeping into her socks.  A flashlight scanned back and forth through the woods. It arced toward her and away, without coming quite to her tree. When the circle of light, broken by leaves and branches, was at the far end of the arc away from her, she peered around the side of the tree.  Faint light reflected back from the trees and bushes showed her McHaggerty’s face, looking both anxious and evil from the weird lighting.  It was so much like something from a horror movie that Rune almost screamed.  She covered her own mouth, biting her fingers.
            Then she calmed slightly, as she realized that McHaggerty wasn't planning to kill her. Probably. No, he wasn't, he wanted to have sex with her, and she hadn't encouraged him, so he was taking it into his own hands.  He wanted to make love to her.  No, he wanted to rape her.  He had given her something to make her sleep or at least relax, it was on her skin, where he had rubbed his fingers, and he had intended to take her without her permission.  Maybe even without her knowledge.  
            A great rush of anger flushed through her, anger, rage, shame, and disgust. Fury. Her head was clearing, she felt less dizzy.  She considered grabbing a branch from the ground and attacking McHaggerty, but instead, she stayed absolutely still.
            McHaggerty came into the woods, but she knew he couldn't see her, he could only see the circle of light where his flashlight fell.  She knew this from a series of activities she had participated in at Poconos Environmental Education Camp (PEEC).  They had a had night walks and night activities all without the use of flashlights, and Rune had come back to Syracuse with a new love of the night and a new respect for it. She had taught a series of the workshops as a projects course at Beaver Lake Nature Center in Baldwinsville.  Funny, she thought, that with all McHaggerty's knowledge and experience he didn't seem to know this simple fact.
            He looked back and forth, and then called her, "Rune.  Rune?  Rune!"  Rune thought that if she hadn't peeled off the patch on her chest, she might be passed out on the cold damp ground with no covering and no jeans.  She could be getting hypothermia.  She was pretty cold, though her anger warmed her some.  But if she was passed out, and McHaggerty didn't find her . . ..  She could become ill or die out there in the cold.  But she wasn't.  She wondered, though, if he were now worrying about her safety and well-being. Too bad he hadn't thought about that sooner.  Before he tried to . . .rape her.  It was hard for Rune to even think the word rape in conjunction with McHaggerty, whom she had loved for several years.
            She found herself thinking, would it have been so bad if I had just let him? And then was disgusted and shamed at the thought. She felt a tear trickling down her cheek and angrily wiped it away.  Dammit, I love him, she thought, but not that way.  And now, how am I supposed to feel about him?  Always afraid and angry?
            She began to shiver, and shivered harder until she was afraid she would make enough noise in the bushes for McHaggerty to hear her.  She steeled herself against the shivering, which was more than just cold.  McHaggerty cast back and forth, back and forth, with the light, tromping further into the woods.  He was making enough noise that Rune crept back into the lean-to and grabbed her jeans.  She crossed the trail to the other side, pulled on her jeans and ducked into the woods.  Since she'd obviously gone into the woods on the lean-to side, McHaggerty would be unlikely to look for her on the far side.  Hopefully.   She could hear him calling, sounding more and more worried.
            Finally, he came out, and taking one cursory swipe of the flash light and glance into the lean-to, retreated down the trail toward the house.  He was abandoning her limp, drugged body to hypothermia, she thought, angrily.  
            As soon as he was out of sight down the trail, Rune went back in the lean-to, shoved her hiking boots on over her damp leafy socks, crammed her sleeping bag into her day pack, tossed her canteen and her few other things in on top, zipped it, and put it on her back.  She tied a bandanna around her head and followed McHaggerty down the trail.  He had a good stride and a head start, and she only occasionally caught a glimpse of his flashlight at a distance.  Good. He'd know soon enough that she was safe.  
            But when they got back to the house, Rune discovered that McHaggerty had, sometime earlier, blocked in the Indian with his Land Rover.  McHaggerty was in the garage, rooting around in piles of stuff.  
            The Indian was heavy. It was blocked in by the Land Rover behind it and by a row of boulders on either side of the driveway.  Rune pushed it toward the two lowest boulders, tugged a wheel up, pushed it.  The engine made a small scraping sound and Rune waited, holding her breath, but McHaggerty was clanging around in the garage still.  She pushed it a little further and then hoisted the back wheel over the rocks.  She pushed it around the Land Rover and back up onto the driveway through a gap in the rocks.  
            The garage light went out, and Rune held her breath, but McHaggerty was temporarily blinded by the sudden darkness.  She saw he was carrying a suitcase-like object, only different, sort of like a sewing machine case.  A small generator, maybe, because in the other hand, he had a (()) of electrical cord and a large light.  He apparently intended to search the woods for her, imagining her to have passed out, she guessed.  In a moment, he'd notice that the motorcycle was gone, but if he was thinking clearly, he'd know he hadn't heard the sound of its starting up.  
            Rune jammed the helmet on her head.  It was cold and damp with dew from hanging over the handlebars.  Then she prayed and jumped on the starter. The Indian did not like starting when it was cold and damp, but miraculously, it fired up immediately, and she roared down the driveway and out onto highway 13.
            She flew into the night, twisting in a dance on the night highway.  There was not another car in sight.
            She imagined McHaggerty chasing after her in his Land Rover, but what would that accomplish?  No, he'd be relieved she was safe and not passed out in the woods dying of hypothermia, and would go inside and go to bed.

            As she drove back toward Syracuse, the thought that McHaggerty had intended to rape her raced through her mind over and over.  How was she supposed to feel about that? How could she continue to work for him?  What should she say to him? How could she keep herself safe?  She wondered if she should report the incident to the police or to the Dean of students at ESF, or to anyone.  What would happen to him if she did?  What would happen to her?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rune's Presentation, part III, Death Angel, Mary's NaNoWriMo Novel for 2011


Amanita muscaria
Fly agaric
this is not my image but was borrowed off the internet.  I found many copies of it but did not locate the photographer.  I would be happy to give credit if I did. 


Rune's presentation part III

Rune showed slides of morels, of her grandmother frying them in butter and garlic and white wine.  She showed shaggy manes and Coprinus. She mentioned how she thought it was odd in a way that the inky caps were among the first mushrooms she learned and explained that the students should never eat them and drink alcohol.  Her grandmother had not told her that.  Rune wondered if she knew.  She did not tell them they shouldn't drink; most of them did and it was their business, not hers.  She thought about the way her presentation wove in and out of McHaggerty's, how there were differences and similarities.  In no case were her pictures or her wording the same.  She didn't go for pyrotechnics.  She thought, as she spoke, that she might add more flare in the future, when she was away from Dr. McHaggerty and Dr. Otis.
She talked briefly about chicken of the woods, hen of the woods and black trumpet mushrooms, which her grandmother used to flavor soups, stews and sauces, and then switched to poisonous mushrooms.  She showed several of the white varieties of Amanita, and then talked about Fly agaric, Amanita muscaria.
"This is one of my favorite mushrooms," Rune said, showing a brightly-colored yellow Amanita muscaria.  My grandmother told me that it was poisonous.  I have friends who told me you can get high eating or smoking it.  My research tells me that it is both poisonous and psychoactive and has been used by shamanic practitioners for centuries.  But it is a dangerous mushroom to use for psychoactive properties because the dosage to get high is somewhat variable by season and location and by whether you dry or heat the mushroom and the dosage to get high and the dosage to to poison yourself are fairly close.  Muscimol and Ibotenic acid are two of the psychoactive chemicals in Amanita muscaria. A fatal dose of Amanita muscaria is estimated to be approximately 15 caps whereas the amount recommended to get high is 1-6 dried caps.  That may not sound like much of an overlap, but keep in mind that the dosage varies extensively."  As she was talking, Rune showed a number of slides of different colored fly agarics, including bright red ones she got off the internet--she had never seen red ones in person.  Only yellow and orange.  


Amanita muscaria, yellow
photo by Keith Taitt, Three Rivers GMA
"To further complicate the issue," Rune continued, "there are people who use this mushroom for food.  They slice it thin and boil it.  The toxins are water soluble and if properly prepared they become a food source.  Deaths, which occur infrequently, are caused by coma and inability for self-ventilate-- that is, breathe.  The prognosis for recovery for most people who eat these mushrooms, even in fairly large quantities, is good if they medical help.  However, keep in mind that you can die if you eat them.
"If you are interested, compare what it says about Amanita muscaria on Wikipedia and at Erowid with what your textbook says.  And consider taking Dr. Ned Tedeschi's course on Drugs from the Wild, keeping in mind that most of the drugs he's referring to are medicinal rather than psychoactive."
"The Drugs from the Wild course is too hard for most of you!" a laughing voice said in the back.  Dr. Tedeschi had slipped into the back of the classroom, the fourth member of Rune's graduate committee.  "I don't want a bunch of druggies taking the class thinking it will be an easy A," he added, still laughing.  "What do you say we give Rune I mean Miss Carmichael a big hand?"
Everyone clapped and cheered and Rune asked if there was any questions and answered a few.  As she was packing up the projector and turning off the computer, Dr. Otis returned to the front of the room.  
She pushed the cart out of the room and paused in the hall to scarf down a couple of Larry's cookies.  She heard Dr. Otis say to the class, "Even a hobbyist can collect a lot of good pictures and information."
McHaggerty, Hanselman, and Tedeschi were coming out and almost ran into Rune, who stood by the door with her hands balled into fists and tears welling up in her eyes.  Darn, she thought, for the hundredth time, I wish I didn't cry so easily!  She turned away so they wouldn't see her tears, but they all wanted to congratulate her on a job well-done.
"Why does he insist on calling me a hobbyist?" she hissed to McHaggerty.  "I'm a graduate student at an accredited college doing research in his area of expertise and what I've said is correct." As soon as she spoke, she knew the answer.  Dr. Otis respected only hard science and rigorous research.  He wanted Rune to do 'real' research, not become a naturalist and teach kids about nature.  He wanted double blind studies, he wanted controls.  She wondered if she could somehow get Dr. Otis off her committee.  He could skew the results of her work.
"Don't worry," McHaggerty said, "there are three of us and only one of him."
"Wait, did I just speak out loud?"
"No, he was reading your mind," ((Hanselman)) said, laughing.
"We'll outvote him," Dr. Tedeschi said, his face serious and concerned.  He had big sad eyes and Rune knew he hated to see anyone cry.  But she couldn't help it.
"It's a great program," Dr. McHaggerty said, "I'm going to arrange for you to give it at Beaver Lake."
"I'd like you to give it to my drugs in the wild class," Dr. Tedeschki said.  "They would love it, especially the bit at the end."
"I'd like you to give it at the senior center--a lot of those folks grew up collecting mushrooms and would love it.
Rune was nodding and nodding, but wondering why it was with all this praise, the thing that really got her goat was still Dr. Otis's comment about her being a hobbyist.  As if her work didn't count, wasn't real or was less than.