Gambits #15 – Crazy Ways to Die

Over 90 people are killed every year in riding lawnmower accidents.

That’s more than the average for death by sharks, bears and alligators combined – in spite of Hollywood, those average about one each per year. Lawnmowers were higher than snake bites (6) and venomous spiders (11).

In fact there are only 4 “freak” accidents that kill more people than lawnmowers. Angry deer (no shit) at 200, electrocution at 400, carbon monoxide at 430, and the most boring “accident” of all, falls, at 36,000 plus.

I wonder how tractors fit into that? I have secondhand personal knowledge of a death by tractor followed by suicide of the perpetrator.

I suppose it would be a forensics nightmare. Murderer catches old Bob out on his mower, out of sight of the house maybe, or nobody’s home. Put a rock in the path, a bonk on the head, Bob goes headfirst over the front, gets chewed into hamburger. Most of those mowers have a kill switch in the seat, but if most people are like my father-in-law was, that switch got deactivated the first time it was a pain in the ass. No pun intended. Or maybe, like the two neighboring politicians in Virginia who got off their mowers and into fisticuffs over who was mowing what they shouldn’t be, well, you have the perfect setup.

Or like the ever popular somebody killed the competitive bike rider, think about sabotage on the hot-rodded riding mower circuit.

So think outside the box. Killed by an angry deer is so predictable. I mean think of all the scripts and real murders where somebody got shot “accidentally” while deer hunting when all they needed to do was offer to carry Bob’s gun and piss off a deer. Death by riding mower takes some imagination, or a serious case of stupid.

Gambits #14 – Pesky Caucasians? Turn up the Country Music

Attention: All those seeking equity and equality who aren’t already running our local governments, city councils, school districts, hospitals, sports franchises, school boards, economic development campaigns or spending tax dollars for Covid Vaccination Sites where white people aren’t, listen up.

A study by researchers Steven Stack of Wayne State University and Jim Gundlach from Auburn University hypothesize that topics often present in the lyrics of country songs — such as “marital discord, alcohol abuse and alienation from work” — can foster a suicidal mood among those who are already at risk.

The researchers performed a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas and found the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the higher the suicide rate. In their paper, the researchers explain that “the effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty and gun availability.”

The retort is that depressed white people simply seek out country music. You know, for that “Bummed but not the Lone Ranger” feeling of false empathy from a puppet pop star. Before they pop themselves.

This study was done two decades ago, so with with the deep inroads pop has made into country maybe things have changed. But I doubt it. Hell, enough Taylor Swift would make make anyone as suicidal as hearing Achy Breaky Heart ever again. But the main themes in country haven’t changed. A whopping 75% of country songs are the old heartbreak numbers. Add in the collateral damage from lost love and “dee-vorce” and there goes the truck, the double wide, the farm, the kids, the dog, all with drinkin’ as the usual offered solution and you have 98% of country music.

So, Sha’niqua, you wanna turn the little community college Becky’s outta the blood lab? Turnin’ up the R&B or BCA won’t help, but changing it to country will.

Think I’m foolin? Download the text.

Two funnies from my career in music: A conversation at a small, grimy cinder block bar outside Cheyenne, Wyoming, where we asked someone in the parking lot: “You got room for live music here?” “Why hell yeah. We got room for both kinds. Country and western. Which one are you boys?” Standing outside the Ryman in downtown Nashville with two geezers, one holding a violin (sorry, fiddle) case, the other a mandolin case while a hired gun guitar player threw down some serious shred warming up at sound check inside. Fiddle geezer looks at me and his friend, saying: “That shit rat there?” He thumbed the Ryman’s open door, spit a stream of tobacco juice into the street. “That shit rat there is whut the hayul’s wrong with country music ennymower.”

Or is it the fact that’s it’s all one song, as shown from 6 top songs being indistinguishable?

Gambits #13 – The “Thing” Syndrome

Here it is – The Possessed Hand

There’s a neurological disease known as ‘alien hand syndrome’ that causes the person afflicted to be completely unaware of what one of their hands is doing.

Whaaaaaat?

Yes. Anyone with the disease is estranged from the behavior of the hand (or limb) which will behave “capriciously and without direction” from its owner. Sufferes have been awaked by their random hand stroking their face, pulling an ear or messing with their privates.

There are a number of etiologies that could be involved, from certain Alzheimer’s brain lesions, stroke, dementia and uncategorized “damage”. A fall, a blow to the head. Regardless of cause, the hand does its own ‘Thing”.

Instead of the angry severed hand, though, a great plot I’ve only seen a few times would involve a connected hand with a politically incorrect mind of its own. Instead of a middle finger popping out, an involuntary Incredible Hulk style power-choke grip lifts a conveniently deaf convenience store clerk over the counter while the owner demands half the two-fer price for a single bag of Doritos.

Or Murder.

Take a serial killer who is by day a pleasant enough high speed interface engineer who gets driven around at night by his hand to commit murder most foul. It could be written from the Grisham-Turrow-Gardner angle, the Cornwell-Garritson angle, a pick an author whodunnit, a Laura Levine-esque humor take or a Noir shamus riff titled The Upper Hand.

Bonus – Give the hand owner Tourette’s to go with and the comedy at the convenience store explodes. I’ll spare you a demonstration.

Further – https://www.thecut.com/2015/03/woman-who-was-attacked-by-her-own-hand.html

Gambits #12 – Deadly Umbrellas

Like the myriad of disgusting headlines my friend sends me or I discover in my own local news, I’m sharing another one I haven’t seen beaten to death (yet).  Not that it’s not out there by any means, but I haven’t seen it circulating in print or TV.

Here you go – Death by beach umbrella.

Many accidents and injuries involving errant beach umbrellas go unreported, but you should know that between 2008 and 2017 at least 31,000 were reported and required emergency medical treatment. Several deaths by beach umbrella have even been reported along with quite a few maimings, including loss of eyeballs, feet, appendages and abdominal parts.

What a fucking great setup. PI or Bounty Hunter Barbie on the beach with Hunky Ken. After the fashion observations and minute accessory descriptions, the wind kicks up.

“Damn!” She exclaimed, pissedoffedly. “I paid twenty dollars for that hat.”

“Hat?” Ken said, absently studying her perfect buns that sported a confectioners dusting of sand.

“Yes, my white straw sun hat with the blue and fuscia Kate Spade knock-off bandana. There it goes!” She pointed into the mess of tumbling, rollicking beach umbrellas, picnic baskets, beer coolers, plastic starfish and towels piling up against the pier and tourist gift shop.

“Isn’t Kate Spade like, dead?”

“That’s why the knock off is so valuable, moron.”

“Check that.” Hunky ex NATO superspy Ken tapped his temple saying “Be right back.” He dashed recklessly into the melee. Upon grabbing her fashion statement hat he stopped in his tracks and began blocking incoming beach debris with his forearms like Wonder Woman in a speedo. The wind abated as suddenly as it started.

“What’s wrong?” Bounty Hunter Barbie asked.

“This one has your name on it, Barb babe,” he shouted, then muttered “or is it babe Barb…?”

When she arrived, he pushed the upside-down umbrellas and coolers aside to give her a clear, yet disturbingly grim view.

“Jeez, Hunky Ken. It’s Benson Ekoreck, the witness protection skip I’ve been looking for.”

“With a beach umbrella stuck in his chest.” Ken reached to remove the umbrella.

“Stop!” Barbie screeched in that shrill voice she hated but just came out when she was upset or orgasmic. “That’s my umbrella!”

Well, of course it is. Was. Whatever. Anyway, there you go, a free plot device. Remember, you heard it here first. Evanovich owes me five-spot if she uses it.

Seriously – Umbrella deaths and bodily damage are a reality. So much so that several Democratic Senators, two from Virginia and one from New Jersey on a day with nothing better to do sent a letter to the Consumer Safety Commission demanding the effects of errant beach umbrellas be looked into.

“Beach umbrella safety is always lower on anybody’s list, until you get impaled by one,” Senator Menendez said.  

Well no shit, Sherlock.

Can’t help myself – If the fictional scene started above had gone on, it might have ended this way –

“That cop thinks you whipped up the windstorm with your hoo-ha somehow so you could get the Bail Bond on that dude refunded,” Hunky Ken said, disaffectedly brushing sand from his glistening bicep.

“He’s just a hairy scrotum in a cheap suit looking for an easy way out. I didn’t do it, so he can kiss my ass and go pound sand. Hey, what’s that on your shoulder?”

“Uh, souvenir?”

“Souvenir? You can’t just take things from a closed crime scene just because it started out as an Act of God, Hunky Ken.”

“Ohh… But the cops said to pick out what we wanted…” Hunky Ken stopped, looked glumly back at the pile of beach crap being picked through by once happy beach goers. “I guess I better take them back.”

“I guess. Wait. Them?”

“I got you one, too.” In a quick move based on years of training and reflex perfection, he whipped two beach towels off his shoulder, snapped them out in front of himself before handing one to Bounty Hunter Barbie.

“Oh my God!” She inhaled a big breath. “A Versace beach towel! You don’t see many of these.”

“Or these.” Hunky Ken held up an oversize Def Leppard towel. “This is major killer.”

Bounty Hunter Barbie rolled her eyes. “What’s so special about a Def Leppard towel?”

“It’s a collector’s item, babe, Barb, uh Barb — ”

“Never mind.” Barbie pouted, unaffected by his enthusiasm.

“No, really. Check it out, Babe, uh, Barb uh… In this picture?” Hunky Ken palmed up the silkscreened band photo on the towel for her. “The drummer dude still has both arms!”

Gambits #11 – Rattlesnake, Whiskey and Uranium

Plus a Handgun, a Suspended License and a Stolen Car

Character Study +

John D MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett, Laura Levine, Fitzgerald – A few words and a reasonably complete picture. From characters to towns. Solid. You know who and where and aren’t bogged down in details. His suit looked dirty but wasn’t. Avocado appliances, a small box-store table for two. A Grand Canyon dishtowel hung from the oven handle. A big man. Pink. Rubbery. Thin and nervous enough to make it contagious. Yellowish skin. Dark circles under unsteady eyes.  He was wide and plodding. Neckless, shoulderless, bald. His necktie short, loose, the knot partially buried by a third chin.

Okay, enough fun. Gambits is about writing prompts, cues, unusual manners of death. Here’s another one from an old friend of mine. From The Daily Oklahoman. A paper I threw in my youth (quite accurately) from a red Sting Ray.

GUTHRIE (AP) — Police in Oklahoma say they found a rattlesnake, a canister of radioactive powdered uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey during a traffic stop of a vehicle that had been reported stolen.

The traffic stop happened June 26 in Guthrie, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City. Guthrie police Sgt. Anthony Gibbs told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR that police don’t know why the uranium was in the vehicle or how it was obtained, though uranium ore can be bought on Amazon.

Gibbs says police also found a gun in the console and a terrarium in the backseat containing a pet Timber rattlesnake.

Gibbs says the driver, Stephen Jennings, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, transporting an open container of liquor and driving with a suspended license.

There’s the setup, here’s the character – What the hell was this guy up to? A hit man gone to seed?

 

Trivia – Guthrie was the original state capital of Oklahoma. A handful of bu$ine$$ men wanted it in Oklahoma City. Guthrie, the original territorial capital didn’t want to give it up. The capital is where the state seal resides, by God, and it’s in Guthrie. As bu$ine$$ men will do, they arranged to have it stolen from Guthrie. When it arrived they removed it from a canvas bag and set up shop in a downtown OKC hotel. Where there were smart enough to keep it locked up and guarded.

Gambits #10 B

Why Make It Up When It’s All Right There?

Friends send me strange news bits knowing I will find a use for them. I believe to distract me from using anything personal they might have told me that would read like great fiction. Here’s the real story about the dead woman and the TV from last week. Straight from The Daily Mail. 

“A woman has been killed after falling from the ninth floor of a block of flats in Russia while having sex – but her partner survived after landing on top of her.

The woman, aged 30, was found dead at the base of an apartment block in St. Petersburg on the night of July 5 during what neighbors described as a wild party. Witnesses said they saw a television thrown from the window of the flat, after which the woman and her 29-year-old lover plunged to the ground below. The woman landed head-first on the asphalt and died instantly, local media reported, but the man survived after his fall was broken by her body and nearby bushes. Witnesses told local media that the partially clothed man then got up and went back to rejoin the party.

Police were called, and when they arrived the revelers allegedly threw a mop out of the windows at them. Initial reports suggested the woman had been killed by the falling TV, but images from the scene clearly show her naked from the waist down. After interviewing witnesses, investigators concluded that the couple were having sex on a windowsill when they fell. Two other men were in the flat when the fall happened, but are not thought to have been involved.”

In my Dick Derringer PI version the cops walk away from it because of the TV, no one comes forward about the partially clothed dude for pick-your-reason. In the cop’s interviews the party dudes paint the girl as depressed and despondent over a break up, and the dude who landed on her has bailed. Derringer sets out to uncover the cover up after a scared old lady with an ankle biter dog throws a mop out her window to get his attention. A mop later used in a funny fight scene.

There you have it. Who’s writing it?

Gambits #10

If I Were A Procedural Writer – This One is as Perfect as They Come

Set up for Dick Derringer, Private Eye – A woman, naked from the waist down, falls 9 stories out of an apartment window. So does a television. Both are dead. Investigators do a perfunctory inquisition. Satisfied it’s accidental or suicide they walk away. Bruising on the body is from the fall or the TV landing on her. Doesn’t matter, she landed head first. Splat.

Next – Attractive woman, well dressed, composed (or wild haired wild eyed young woman in sweatshirt with too-long sleeves) walks into Dick’s office. “It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t suicide. Find out what happened.” Dick, the consummate formula PI is always looking for opportunities to 1) get laid, 2) embarrass the cops, 3) strong arm some smart asses, takes the case.

The assignment – What really happened?

Next installment, the real answer. Lets hear it from you plotters out there.

Gambits #9

Get Your Forensics Chops On

In 2013 a Colombian man checked himself into a hospital in Medellin complaining of fever, weight loss and difficulty breathing. Tests revealed he had cancer cells in his lungs but they were 10 times smaller than human cancer cells. More tests and they figured that a tapeworm had infested his body and subsequently contracted cancer, or had already been infected, and passed it on to its host. The man died three days after being diagnosed.

I can see this one. Opening – sweaty emaciated week old stubble man in dirty shirt, his belt obviously cinched to hold up too big pants stumbles in and clutches ER counter. “Hehhh…heh…help…meeee.”

Okay, mystery buffs, who is the victim? How does the murderer do it? Conspire with a restaurant employee, shoot the tapeworm full of radioactive material, active cancer cells, some dread disease? Procedural from hell y’all, promise. Unless you approach it from the ‘shouldn’t have eaten that street vendor cheeseburger in Boys Town’ angle, and then it’s just a case of stupidity complicated by Hepatitis and a random STD.

Source – Rachel Rettner, “Tapeworm Spreads Deadly Cancer to Human”  Scientific American November 2015

Gambits #8

Death By Hygiene and What’s Good For You

The case for roll ons- In 1998 Jonathan Capewell, 16, died from a heart attack brought on by the buildup of butane and propane in the blood after excessive use of deodorant sprays. He was known for an obsession with personal hygiene. His blood level of butane was. 37 per litre, the same for propane. .1 per litre is fatal.

Ladies, if you want to off him for overuse of mismatched man whore products simply over pressurize his Right Guard.

There will be no commentary on how many in WalMart are highly unlikely to die this way.

Eat the Liver. It’s good for you.

Consuming even small amounts of Polar Bear liver can be fatal for humans. Polar Bears, like many arctic mammals livers, contain excessive amounts of vitamin A and can lead to acute hypervitaminosis A.

You know the person. The one your age who has 2% body fat, a weave, and brags about playing soccer with 20-somethings and offers to set you up on a regimen of his bucket a day of vitamins for slightly more per month than the lease on a Maserati?

Liver was a staple in school lunch cafeterias when I was young. I never participated. Keep your eyes peeled for that crazy cafeteria lady signing for a cooler packed in dry ice…If it’s not shrimp or crawfish stick with the green Jell-O full of banana slices.

 

 

 

 

Gambits #7

Hey, Let’s Go To The Museum!

Body disposal 101 – The Smithsonian keeps an army of flesh eating beetles on staff. Their purpose? To strip any flesh remaining on skeletons before they go on display. Or anywhere else.

“Mummy!”

“Yes, I know, Norm. It’s a Mummy.”

“NO! IT’S MY MUMMY!”

“Mr. Bates, is there a problem?”

“No, little Norman here thinks every skeleton he sees is his Mummy. A Mummy, I mean. A Mummy.”

“Of course. After all it couldn’t be his Mummy, could it?”

No, no. She’s at home in her rocking chair, rotting, er, uh knitting away. Knitting. Away. Come along, Norm, let’s go look at the airplanes…”