Dead in a Dumpster

Leah Norwood Mysteries, Book #1

Cozy Mystery

Date Published: September 23, 2014

When Leah Norwood finds the body of Isabel Meeks in the dumpster behind her store, she can’t believe the police consider her a suspect. Sure, she didn’t like Isabel, but then again, neither did anyone else. Isabel had a condescending attitude and a bad reputation. As manager of the antique store, Patina, she had made a lot of enemies.

There is Patina’s assistant manager, the handsome and charming Trent. Isabel was blackmailing him. There is Patina’s owner, the aloof and influential Anthony Thorpe. Isabel was smuggling drugs through his store. And there is the entire drug dealing Cantono family. Isabel had lost a box containing heroin from one of their shipments. That is just to name a few and didn’t even include the stranger who was seen arguing with Isabel just hours before her death.

The police have too many suspects and too many soft alibis. Leah needs to prove to the sexy new chief of police that she had nothing to do with Isabel’s death.

Leah loves a good mystery. Can she find the killer before the police arrest her for murder?

Excerpt

We walked to the end of the hall and then turned left. This hallway was shorter and only contained three doors. Captain Reddish opened the first one. I followed him in and then stopped abruptly. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting. A conference room, maybe, or another office. What I got was an interrogation room. It looked a lot like something you would see on a television police show. It was a small square room with a table in the middle and two chairs on either side. There was no mirrored window, but I did see a camera mounted in one corner.

My heart started pounding, and my mouth went dry. What the hell was going on? I wondered. Was I going to be interrogated? And if so, why? Suspects were interrogated not witnesses. I had told the police everything I knew last night. I thought today was just a formality. I tried to swallow but choked a little and coughed instead. I looked at Reddish. He took a step toward the table and tossed the folder in front of one of the chairs. He motioned toward the chair opposite and said, “Have a seat.”

Hesitantly, I took a step forward but stopped when he said, “I’m going to get some coffee. Would you like anything?”

I shook my head, and he walked out the door leaving me alone. I decided if he was offering me coffee, it couldn’t be that bad. Breathing deeply, I sat down. Maybe they didn’t have any conference rooms or empty offices. My nerves settled down as I stared at the folder a minute wondering if I had time to read it before Reddish got back. It had Isabel’s name on it. I glanced briefly at the camera on the wall and decided not to risk it.

A movement by the door caught my attention. I glanced over as Alexander Griggs stepped into the room. He looked at me and gave me a half smile. The indentation on the right side of his mouth deepened just a little. His intense green eyes pinned me to the seat. My heart started pounding again. Only this time, it wasn’t out of fear. I tried not to fidget as he walked over to the chair next to Reddish’s and pulled it out. What was it about this man that affected me so? He placed the chair parallel to the table and sat down. “How are you, Ms. Norwood?”

“Fine,” I replied and was pleased to note that my voice was steady and clear.

Reddish returned with two cups of coffee. He didn’t seem surprised that Griggs was present so I assumed he was expected. Reddish closed the door, handed one of the cups to Griggs, and sat in the chair opposite me before opening the folder. He took out a piece of paper and then looked up at me.”

“We have a few more questions for you, Ms. Norwood.”

“Okay,” I said cautiously.

“You stated that the last time you saw Ms. Meeks alive was when you went to confront her about the delivery truck. Is that correct?”

I paused a minute. I hadn’t used the words confront her, although that is what had happened. Swallowing hard, I tried not to sound defensive. “I last saw Isabel alive when I went to ask her to have the delivery truck moved.”

“Ask her?” Reddish said looking at me.

“Well, maybe, I didn’t actually ask.”

“I see. So what did you do?”

I didn’t like his tone, but I answered anyway. “I told her that the delivery truck was parked in my space, and she needed to have it moved.”

“According to Mr. Thorpe, you threatened to call the police.”

I looked at Reddish and then at Griggs. Both men looked back at me with no expression on their faces. It was like looking at two stone figures. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, but I was beginning to get a little nervous. Was I really a suspect? I took another deep breath before answering.

“Yes, I threatened to call the police. Isabel was refusing to have the truck moved so I told her that I would report the driver as trespassing.”

“But you didn’t,” Reddish said, his tone dry.

“No, I didn’t need to. Mr. Thorpe had Trent get the driver to move the truck.”

Reddish consulted his notes. “So even though the truck was moved, you were still angry.”

“Yes, I was angry,” I said carefully. I was beginning to think I might need to stop talking. They hadn’t read me my rights, but I didn’t know how much of what I said could be used against me at this point. Did I need to ask for a lawyer?

“Is that why you threatened her?” Reddish asked.

“What?” I squeaked. “I didn’t threaten her.”

“According to a witness, you were angry and threatened the victim. Specifically, you said ‘I think it’s time for someone to teach Isabel a lesson, and I’m just the one to do it’.”

Candace. Of course, Candace told the police what I said. She probably told the whole town. I sat back in my chair, stomach churning, mouth dry, fear racing through me. I looked at Reddish again. He just sat there waiting.

“Okay, so maybe I threatened her,” I whispered, “but I didn’t mean that I was going to kill her. I was angry. We all say things when we’re angry.”

“If you didn’t plan to kill her, then what were you threatening to do?”

“I don’t know,” I said looking back and forth between Reddish and Griggs. This couldn’t be happening. What was I going to do? I wasn’t a criminal. I didn’t even drive over the speed limit very often. “I was thinking something along the lines of letting all the air out of her tires.”

Griggs snorted, but when I looked at him, his face was remote. He didn’t say anything, just took a sip of his coffee. Reddish watched me, eyes narrowed, a shade of distrust on his face. He nodded decisively and went for the kill.

“Ms. Norwood, do you own a gun?”

Shit. It was definitely time for a lawyer.

About the Author

B. L. Blair writes mystery/romance stories. Like most authors, she has been writing most of her life and has dozens of books started. She just needs the time to finish them.

She is the author of the Leah Norwood Mysteries and the Lost and Found Pets Mystery Novellas. She loves reading books, writing books, and traveling wherever and as often as time and money allows. She is currently working on her latest book set in Texas, where she lives with her family.

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The Devil Whispered by Shawn Starkweather

 

Science-Fiction/Mystery/Detective

Date Published: 3/1/2021

Retired special-forces commander Jacobi Slate is drawn into a downward-spiraling vortex of fear and doubt while investigating a brutal murder committed by an old friend. As evidence mounts that someone else might be pulling strings from the shadows, Jacobi struggles to understand a developing connection to his own past, which is quickly catching up to him.

Near-future cyberpunk collides with gritty detective noir in this fast-paced thriller that shines a light on both the vast shortcomings and the noble heroism of the human condition. To unravel the mystery, Jacobi will pull on every thread while chasing leads from the squalor of the most dangerous streets to the high-tech towers of the wealthy elite on his quest to understand a truth he might not be ready to face.

 

Excerpt

Through the doorway, a shape was moving toward us, intermittently visible as the pulsing rings passed rapidly along the ceiling. It was low to the ground, and parts of it were glowing red. The lights were moving too quickly for me to fully assess exactly who or what was approaching us, until it had nearly reached the door. It was an elderly Asian man, seated in a wheeled chair, the metal of which was aglow. The colors of fire swirled within it and gave the metal the molten appearance of having just been drawn from the flames. The man looked to be in his seventh or eighth decade. His white hair was short, straight, and neatly combed. The sharp, piercing gaze from beneath his glasses belied any assumption that his advanced age might have dulled his mind. For a few moments, he quietly studied us, and I had the sense that we were being silently compared with a preexisting expectation of some kind.

I bowed then, timing it as I deemed appropriate to reflect the proper amount of deference, since I was a guest on this ship and had come seeking his assistance. Risa followed my example.

Kangei Shimasu,” he said in Japanese, bowing his head respectfully. “Be welcome, Jacobi-san.”

“You know my name,” I said, unsurprised.

He paused for a moment, as if to consider how to answer, and then nodded. “I do. I know a great many things about both of you, but before you ask, I am unwilling to fully explain the methods that we use to gather our intelligence. We should use the limited time we have to share with one another this evening to focus on less complex matters.”

“You are The Blacksmith?” asked Risa.

“Yes. Welcome to the Forge, Ms. Corbin. You, of all people, might appreciate the room in which we stand now. Do you understand what you see, I wonder?”

“I think…” she said, looking slowly around the room, “if I had to guess, considering the amount of power you have being routed to that sphere, it’s probably the central processing unit for some sort of massive neural network. AI, perhaps?”

“Not just any artificial intelligence. Certainly nothing along the lines of those ridiculous programmed concierges you see installed in every home now. The Anvil,” he said, nodding in the direction of the sphere, “is the foundation of all of the work we do here at the Forge. I began developing it more than five decades ago, and it has since evolved into what you see before you now, a fully functioning example of the potential of machine learning.”

“What does it do?” she asked, walking closer and running her hand along the surface of the sphere.

“It manages complex medical procedures and data-mines the Evernet with astounding speed and accuracy to provide me with information. In many ways, it functions as an assistant of sorts for me, without which the work I do would take an extraordinarily increased length of time to complete.”

“And what is that exactly?” she asked. “The work you do, I mean.”

“You contacted me. That seems a great deal of trouble to go through without knowing what you seek.”

“It certainly does,” Risa said, giving me a poignant glare.

“Well,” he continued, “we do a great many things here in the Forge, mostly in the field of biological cybernetics. Our moral inclinations tend to be much looser than the places where this work is performed legally. And with the assistance of the Anvil, we can perform it in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise.”

“Why out here? Why on the ocean? A ship hardly seems the ideal place for a man in a wheelchair,” I said.

“Well, ship stability technology has made some leaps forward in the twenty years since you were in the navy, Mr. Slate. Advances in the field of magnetic internal stabilizers, as well as wave pattern recognition and prediction, have given way to a new era of onboard motion control. As you can surely see, there is a powerful storm raging outside yet barely the slightest hint of movement here within the hull.”

I hadn’t been paying too much attention, distracted as I’d been by the strange environment and the neural network, but he was correct. I bowed my head in concession to his point.

“To answer your question, it provides some amount of security, and the mobility we need to maintain our privacy. The ocean also provides a consistent, natural source of coolant that we utilize in maintaining our operation. Additionally, we have systems onboard that harness both thermal energy from the sun’s heat and mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Water, Mr. Slate, is a powerful tool when properly manipulated.”

My curiosity was sated, and I was impressed. The Blacksmith’s chair rolled forward past us, seemingly of its own violation as his hands were neatly folded in his lap. It repositioned to face us when it reached the Anvil.

“So, let us not waste any more time. Tell me, what service do you hope I can provide?”

I looked at Risa, who was watching me expectantly, and drew a deep breath.

“I need a kill switch for my head.”

About the Author

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation it occasionally puts their house guests in. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community college in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases.

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

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Need an UpVote at Icons8

Ah, my loyal blog readers, I need an upvote on a request at Icons8. Actually need about a dozen so hopefully there are at least one dozen of the 22,205 “registered users” of this blog. Just upvote this. It looks like this.

Icons8 icon request

Pretty self explanatory. I’ve written about Icons8 before. They have free to use (as long as you follow the free licensing policy which isn’t onerous) and some are really good. They tend to group styles into packages so even if you don’t care for the icons themselves they “work” together. Don’t you just hate it when icons seem to be plucked from here and there with nothing actually matching?

Please, click the link and upvote.

Thank you.

The Devil Whispered by Shawn Starkweather

Science-Fiction/Mystery/Detective

Date Published: 3/1/2021

Retired special-forces commander Jacobi Slate is drawn into a downward-spiraling vortex of fear and doubt while investigating a brutal murder committed by an old friend. As evidence mounts that someone else might be pulling strings from the shadows, Jacobi struggles to understand a developing connection to his own past, which is quickly catching up to him.

Near-future cyberpunk collides with gritty detective noir in this fast-paced thriller that shines a light on both the vast shortcomings and the noble heroism of the human condition. To unravel the mystery, Jacobi will pull on every thread while chasing leads from the squalor of the most dangerous streets to the high-tech towers of the wealthy elite on his quest to understand a truth he might not be ready to face.

Excerpt

My consciousness snapped online with abrupt decisiveness. I had the acute feeling of being alone in a world that was wrongly serene, like the silence of the dead. I’d been dreaming of something horrifying, but the details were dancing just outside the boundary of my ability to recall. The panic I’d woken with was caught in my chest. It held me frozen to the sheets as my mind reconfigured to the safety and familiarity of my apartment. Though the context of the dream was faded and surreal, the fear was vivid and raw. It was a visceral terror, compounded by a deeply rooted aversion to vulnerability.

As I lay there, waiting for the sensation of cold dread to die away, the room was unceremoniously lit up by the glow of the wide monitor that comprised the wall opposite my bed. Shielding my eyes from the sting of the sudden light, I heard Ava, my virtual concierge, ask if I would like to receive a call.

Who’s calling?” I asked with what little energy I’d mustered.

A Pavel Volkov is awaiting your response.” Her voice was always the same, mildly empathetic with a touch of encouragement.

I wrapped the sheet around me and grudgingly pulled myself up to sit on the side of the bed. Looking out from the tall windows that constituted the eastern-facing wall of my bedroom, I saw that it was still deep in the night. The only radiance beyond the panes was generated by the city itself; from the broken lines of luminous code emanating from the trickling streams of traffic far below, and the windows of the high-rises that towered above them – light and dark, the ones and zeroes of a binary skyline.

Yeah, okay.”

Then, Pavel’s finely kempt visage was smiling keenly at me from my wall. He was standing on a rocky beach, and waves were lapping at the shore behind him. He wore a white silk suit and a bemused expression that seemed inappropriately unapologetic.

It’s late, Pavel.”

Good morning, Jacobi. My apologies for contacting you at this hour, but I thought you’d want to know that I’ve located the target.”

Where are you?”

I’ll send coordinates to your CUBE.”

Pavel Volkov was a liar and a thief. He’d conned so many wealthy aristocrats that he’d become one himself, but he stayed in the game for the sake of his own twisted entertainment. He was an artist, who specialized in painting perfect illusions. Deception was his medium, but I’d worked with him for long enough that I trusted him when it came to getting the job done. Traces of malaise from my restless sleep were lingering, so the notion of lucid wakefulness was a welcome one.

I’m on my way,” I said. “End call.”

Pavel’s smirking face faded as the monitor went dark, and I was left with only my thoughts and the reiterating cycles of light from the softly glowing city outside. In the silence, I heard the faint percussion of fiery horse hooves falling away as the nightmare visiting me surrendered the assault and retreated to the depths of wherever dark dreams were designed.

About the Author

Shawn lives in Massachusetts with his wife and the handful of childhood stuffed animals that they’ve been unable to part ways with, even despite the awkward situation it occasionally puts their house guests in. He wields a coveted Associates of Liberal Arts degree from Greenfield Community college in an overly enthusiastic, flailing manner, and puts it to work writing both fantasy and science fiction stories. Using subliminal codes and hidden messaging carefully placed throughout his books, he plans to captivate the minds of his readers and insidiously manipulate them into purchasing subsequent releases.

As a novelist, musician, graphic designer, and a purveyor of fine games, Shawn is often confused about exactly who he is when he wakes up in the morning. It’s been said (by him) that perhaps he embodies all of these things so equally that a singular definition could not comprehensively impart a satisfactory description. With your support, and a sufficient demand for more novels, he secretly hopes that he’ll have no choice but to formally acknowledge the prevailing label of ‘author’ and spend the rest of his days providing a sense of wonder and adventure to everyone who helped him solidify his nebulous identity.

Contact Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

LinkedIn

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Author Amazon Page

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A Fedora 33 Virus?

Several weeks ago Google started popping up their “we’ve noticed suspicious activity” screen and making me respond to a Captcha any time I used them to search something. I try to use Google as little as possible because nobody should be allowed to collect that much information about anyone. Sometimes, when all my other search engines fail I have to go there.

This finally became too annoying. The Google screen also said it through one or more machines on my network were infected. I ran full Norton scans on the Windows machines. Not just a quick scan, full disk scans. I ran whatever flavor of ClamAV each distro had in their repos on all of the Linux machines.

Found on Fedora 33

KlamAV was unable to quarantine. Most likely because I ran as a mere mortal. I opened a terminal, changed to the directory and nuked those two files then rebooted. Google has stopped complaining.

The Weird Part of Fedora Machine Virus

BOINC rack

What’s weird is that machine has been sitting over in the BOINC rack for quite a while. I will use it to look up a part if we are working on something for the shop. I did use it to create the RPM package for my fork of Diamond. That’s kind of it though. I even did most of the editing for the scripts and stuff on my main computer and just walked over to this one to test after pulling from Git again.

Why? Because I have to either stand or sit on a bar stool the entire time. I’m not twenty-something anymore so that bothers my back after a while. When I was jumping through the hoops to write this and most of my other Fedora posts they were mostly stand-up tasks.

My Fedora box was the only machine Clam squawked about. After I deleted those files from the command line and rebooted, Google stopped bitching.

Update: 2021-02-28

It’s now been more than two days. I went from every machine on the network getting a captcha request from Google for every Google search no matter what OS, browser, and adblocker they were using to every machine able to do a Google search.

The Fedora community has been both unfriendly and unhelpful. The mere mention of their beloved OS possibly having a virus has them racing to flag all posts as “unacceptable.” Even went so far as to mark the problem solved while making jokes about wearing masks and washing hands. The problem isn’t “solved.”

I’ve worked with some real assholes in my life. The joking about computer viruses and wearing masks was the last straw. The entire Fedora community sounds just like Donald Trump. Deny, deny, deny, deny.

See no Evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Linux is not immune to viruses. It is less prone. Yes, I lump most forms of malware, including “bots” into “virus” when speaking. Code you didn’t want or knowingly install doing evil things on/with your computer. Bots get used for all sorts of activities, the most publicly known of which is probably DDoS attacks. Thousands or millions of infected machines all hitting the same Web site or IP address repeatedly at the same time.

These attitudes are really shocking. The Unix/Linux world has a looooong history of being penetrated. For decades I heard/read hackers chanting the mantra “If it has a Guest account I’m God!” The Unix/Linux community went into Donald Trump mode.

Fedora Community Response to Viruses

Guess what? The world was finally told one of the ways they did it. Shellshock was a Bash shell bug they were exploiting for over 25 years.

Assholes Joking About Masks and Washing Hands

A good friend and former co-worker has buried two brothers, two sisters, and an aunt. They were all grown adults living in their own places, most in different states. I buried my own father in October after being locked out of the nursing home due to justifiable pandemic restrictions for most of the last year of his life.

You’re just a (&)(*&()*ing asshole when you won’t wear a mask or wash your hands.

The English language doesn’t have a word to describe joking about it in a support forum.

Given the Fedora Community Response

Given the Fedora community response, I will never trust a RedHat based distro. I will also never professionally recommend a RedHat based distro. Linux is not immune, it does get targeted.

https://www.imperva.com/learn/ddos/botnet-ddos/

BillGates malware

Y’all need to be installing and running antivirus.

March 10, 2021 update

Since nuking those files I’ve re-installed Mozilla Firefox on all machines, set privacy/security to highest settings, and installed a different adblocker on Firefox. A great many were trying to point the finger at Firefox blocking all tracking information as to the reason Google was spitting up those screens.

I’m still writing, still looking things up, and still not getting those Google “suspicious activity” screens. Yes, Firefox is my default browser again.

I wiped that machine and installed MX Linux on it. If I need to build more RPMs with Fedora it will be from a VM that lives only long enough to create the package then gets deleted. Simply can’t trust the distro given the community response.