Spontaneous Build-a-Stories

It’s practically inevitable: Get two or more writers together, and the next thing you know, they’re making things up. Often enough, it’s just a lot of trading entertaining lies back and forth. Every now and then, though, you end up with something resembling an actual story.

Like, with a plot.

And death. There is frequently death.

Sometimes, the story-making’s intentional from the get-go – like the time I joined the Creative Writing Club of Wisconsin Lutheran College for an off-the-cuff writing game. Other times, it kinda just happens – like that other time on Twitter when Sarnic Dirchi* and I somehow found ourselves with a phantom dentist on our hands.

(* Yes, that Sarnic Dirchi – she of the awesome author-to-reader interview centered ‘round INSPIRED.)

Y’know what’s great about both these times? I’ve actually got documentation of each story in my possession, meaning I get to share them with you! *the peasants rejoice*


Story 1: “It’s Never Happened This Way Before…” by Danielle E. Shipley, Katyln Rogers, Nathan Kelly, and Megan Ann Jacobs

It’s never happened this way before.

He usually just makes my drink without any sort of social interaction.

Now he’s asking after my family, how work is going, and have I finished that book yet?

The strange thing is that I don’t remember ever telling him about my book.

I don’t remember telling anyone.

Has he been watching me?

Cautiously, I sip my drink as he tends to the other patrons.

The drink tastes funny.

At once, I remember every murder case the news ever aired.

I also remember the case I was working on last month.

No culprit was ever found, but we had a clue.

The man making me my drinks.

I sip more slowly, my mouth stalling for time as I try to puzzle out the flavor and what it might mean for my continued health.

Suddenly, I recognize the taste, and my heart leaps within me.

Apples!, the flavor the murderer used to mask his poison!

I rushed to the payphone, knowing it was too late.

The Mackintosh Murderer has killed again.


Story 2: “#PhantomDentist”, a tale told in segments of 140 characters or less by Danielle E. Shipley and Sarnic Dirchi

And so it begins…
And so it begins…

*creeak* The girl turned, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “Hello?” she asked uncertainly. Behind her, a drill whirred.

The hollow eye sockets of the phantom dentist bore into her like a root canal. A chilling whisper: “Let’s see those chompers.”

She gagged as decay and drilled bone whiffed over her. She should be screaming. In fact, she would. “AAAHHH!” She turned to run.

The phantom dentist’s chair ro-o-ose into the girl’s path. Escape cut off, she was yanked back by a lasso of unwaxed floss.

This was her worst nightmare come true. “Let me go!” She struggled. “I floss twice a day! What more do you want?”

The phantom dentist leaned in, uber-whitened smile gleaming. “What more I want,” he said, “is your wisdom teeth. OPEN WIDE!”

“But I got them out two years ago! You can’t take what’s not there Mr. Crazy Ghost Dentist.” She firmly clenched her mouth shut.

The phantom dentist wailed. “Then what is left for me?” W/ a chill in the air sharp as spearmint mouthwash, he vanished.

She exhaled. “Hopefully a date with the Tooth Fairy if, she’ll have you,” she muttered, looking about. “Hey! You need to untie me!”

She received no answer but for the endless suck, suck, suck of that tube dentists stick in your mouth, little knowing…

…the tube was sucking her life force away. Soon, she would be as the phantom dentist: Cursed to roam for teeth…forever.

Her skin paled as the tube sucked away her life, taking on a see-through quality. “Help me,” she whispered, weakening. “Please.”

But none could hear her, their ears all numbed by the phantom dentist’s last malicious gift: Aural Novocain.


Like I said. Creation and death. We writers ARE the Circle of Life!

Mic’s on you, readers! How’d you enjoy the stories? ~ Any favorite lines? ~ Have you and your friends ever found yourselves creating spontaneous build-a-stories of your own? ~ If you weren’t scared of the dentist hitherto, how ‘bout now?

“Whodunit 10” or “For Whom the Crier Bell Tolls”

The final episode of the Bristol whodunit is here! With wildcard Town Crier Hannah in the clear, can Emeraude and the others uncover the murderer before the Queen’s parade? Can you?


“A’right, a’right, a’right… think, think, think!”

Emeraude a’Right paced in small circles under the tree, avoiding slipping on its fallen acorns more by luck than any attention paid, for all her concentration was on the current conundrum.

“We’ve missed something. We’ve got to have missed something! The answer’s sure to be staring us right in the face, we’re just not seeing the big portrait, somehow. Let’s take it back to the beginning. When did we last see Jasper Trustworthy alive?”

“At the town meeting, early this morning,” recalled her cousin and fellow Crier, Harold Angel. “Nearly the whole of Bristol was there in the hour before the gates opened, to be sure that all went smoothly for the Queen’s arrival. (And we can see how well that precaution’s paid off…)”

“Right,” Emeraude nodded, ignoring Harold’s characteristically negative mutterings. “So his murder had to take place between the end of the meeting and just past the hour of ten-and-thirty, when Dorcas found him in the lake. Now, you and I were together that whole ninety minutes, Harold – greeted visitors at the gates together, hawked the show at the Three Sheets together, both our bells in our possession the whole time – so that rules either of us out as the killer. Now, Dorcas…”

Emeraude turned to the third cousin and Crier, Dorcas Oddpick. “You saw the body before we did, so you can help us fix the time of death more closely. At what time did you reach the bridge?”

“It was…” Dorcas paused to think, eyes rolled skyward as if the answer were written in the clouds. (Not that such a thing would be of much help to her, given that she was only barely literate.) “Yea, I remember, it was just ten-and-thirty. I know, because I had nearly reached the bridge before, but then I saw that I had forgotten my timepiece, so I had to go back to our room of green get it, and I made sure to check the timepiece when I reached the bridge the second time, to be certain that this time it was properly on my person, and it was.”

“All right, very good. And when you reached the center of the bridge, Jasper was in the lake?”

“Nay, he wasn’t in the lake yet,” said Dorcas. “He was on the bridge.”

“He was??” said Harold.

“Dead already?” asked Emeraude.

“Nay, he was alive. I waved at him, and said, ‘Good morrow, Jasper!’” Dorcas waved in demonstration. “Then I looked over the bridge’s rail, and waved at the turtles, and said, ‘Good morrow to you, Ralph! And to you, Ralph! And to Ralph!’”

“Yes, yes, but what about Jasper?” Harold demanded impatiently.

Dorcas frowned. “Quoth Jasper, ‘Aye, good morrow, Stinky and Flippy and Murky and Jim,’ and any number of names that were NOT those of the turtles. And I made every effort to educate him on the true names of the turtles, but he would relent not, and insisted on calling them by every odious appellation that did enter his dingy top-hatted pate. So I hit him with my bell.”

Emeraude and Harold stared at Dorcas, then at each other, then back at Dorcas to cry in unison, “YOU KILLED JASPER TRUSTWORTHY?!”

The face of a killer?!
(Photo cred to Ivan Phillips)
“Wait, *who* hath killed me, now?!” The dead man can’t believe it!
(Photo cred to John Karpinsky)

“Nay,” said Dorcas, looking affronted. “I merely hit him with my bell. Then he fell over the rail for a nap in the water.”

Harold dropped his face into his hand. “Which degree hath a murder when the killer kills without understanding that a death hath even occurred?”

“I know not,” Emeraude said wearily, shoulders slumped as if under the weight of the earth and its moon. “Nor do I know what is to be done now. How can we lead the Queen’s progress through town with a murderer in our midst?? In our very family?!”

From behind and above, an imperial voice rang out, “Thou canst if we do ask it of thee.”

In that moment, the second death of the day very nearly came to pass, for Emeraude’s heart stood still at the sight of none other than her beloved Queen Elizabeth, sitting in all regal glory upon her horse.

“Your Majesty!” Emeraude gasped, dropping down into a deep reverence.

Her Glorious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I! Long may she reign!
(Photo cred to John Karpinsky)

With a benevolent almost-smile, the Queen’s hand motioned in the “rise up” gesture. “It hath reached our ears what hath transpired, this day,” she informed the Criers. “And while the death of our subject Jasper Trustworthy is most unfortunate, we can lay no great blame on the hand that slew him, any more than we could were the killer a suckling babe with a bludgeon waving in its fist.”

“A most just comparison, Your Majesty,” Harold murmured.

“Therefore,” the Queen continued, “let us put the unpleasant incident behind us, noting only that, in future, it might improve the safety of this town were certain Criers to be given smaller, lighter, and less potentially-lethal bells.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the Criers spoke as one.

The Queen nodded. “‘Tis well. Now, let the parade begin!”

Overcome with joy, relief, and adoration for her monarch, Emeraude exclaimed, “God Save the Queen!”

“GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!” the answering call rose from every present British soul.

Within moments, the processional line was in order. Bells ringing, brass blaring, drums booming, and all faces bright with smiles, the parade stepped out and around and through the streets of Bristol, its Town Criers leading the way and calling ahead to the masses:

Ring, ring, ring. “Make way!” Ring, ring, ring. “Stand aside!” Ring, ring, ring. “Make way for Her Majesty!”

And the crowds of visitors stood in awe, clapped and cheered, and took instant portraits on battery-powered devices that had naught to do with the sixteenth century, all of them blissfully unaware of the Regina ex Machina-resolved drama that had taken place behind the scenes.

But that’s a Renaissance Faire for you.


“Whodunit 9” or “Surely You Jest”

With a little arcane assistance, the Town Criers have discovered that the murder weapon points directly to… one of their own.


“A Crier bell?!”

Emeraude gasped, looking reflexively down at her own wood-and-metal tool of the trade. It was a hefty instrument, to be sure – quite useful for noisy clanging and, she supposed, for knocking the lights out of the likes of murder victim Jasper Trustworthy. “But it couldn’t have been me! I’d have known about it! And you’d been in my sight since the gates opened up until the body’s discovery,” she said, pointing to Harold Angel. Swinging her finger around to their mutual cousin, Dorcas Oddpick, she added, “And Dorcas knew not even that Jasper had been murdered, until we told her!”

“And we’ve all had our bells hanging from our belts all day,” said Harold, “so ‘tis not as if anyone else could have used one of them to kill Trustworthy.”

“And nobody who is not a Town Crier has any business bearing a bell,” Dorcas said virtuously. “Apart from the Bristol Buskin Frolickers, and they’ve only got a lot of little jingly bells, anyway. And flowers. A great lot of flowers.”

“Well, we know now that Jasper wasn’t killed with a flower,” said Emeraude. “Frankly, I don’t think any of us once supposed that he was. But if none of us three Criers murdered him, than who—” She stopped short, green eyes grown wide as a realization struck. “But of course,” she said. “We are not only three Criers: We are four.”

“God save the Queen, you’re right!” cried Harold. “We’ve forgotten all about cousin Hannah!”

“Who?” said Dorcas.

Little do the sea captains gathered behind them know, there are Fantastikal fairies lurking about. (As captured by Wayne Hile.)

“Hannah Masey,” Emeraude said in a rush. “Understandable if you remember her not, cousin – she’s as hard to catch sight of as a tricky Fantastikal, and we’ve not made mention of her name since way back in Part One of this story. Do you think she could have done it, Harold?”

“There is but one way to find out,” Harold said. “And it will be difficult to pull off, as it would involve confronting Hannah herself to get the facts, and who knows where she ever is?”

“We may not know where she is this moment,” said Emeraude, “but we know where she’ll be in five minutes.”

“We do?” said Dorcas. “That’s clever of us. Where will she be?”

“’Tis five mins until half past the hour of noon,” said Emeraude, displaying the face of her timepiece, “at which time all assigned to join in Her Majesty’s procession through Bristol are to gather beyond the town’s side gate. The Town Criers will be there to lead the parade.” She looked significantly at her cousins. “All four of them.”

The sleuthing Criers made all haste to the parade rendezvous, there to await the suspicious fourth of their number. And they weren’t the only ones there by a long shot. The area was crowded with townsfolk: Merchants selling everything from hats to llama-petting, joining the march in order to advertise their wares; Robin Hood and his Merry Men, bringing an outsized cake to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s imminent arrival; Dog and Pony, the Swedish Governess, the witch sisters, Captain Frobisher and his ship’s boy, Anne Drew, Tamora Skumm and Amil Stands, the floozies and the Italians… in short, pretty much everyone who had been in any way implicated or involved in the Criers’ murder investigation.

And once all the suspects are assembled, Emeraude thought, the big reveal of the murderer isn’t far behind.

They found the elusive Hannah Masey sitting underneath a tree, playing with fallen acorns. She looked up as a triple shadow fell over her, four eyes looking grimly down. (Dorcas’s eyes didn’t know how to look grim, and actually appeared to be looking more at Hannah’s acorns than at the suspected killer.)

Don’t let this lovely portrait by Steven Bourelle fool you: This could be a cold-blooded killer!

Emeraude wasted no time beating about the bush. “Where wert thou at the hour of ten and thirty this morrow, Hannah?”

“Ten and thirty?” Hannah screwed up her somewhat adorable face in thought. “I forget the precise location.”

“Do you indeed?” said Harold. “I suppose not that it was the bridge above Lake Elizabeth?”

“With your Crier bell?” added Emeraude.

“Well, aye,” Hannah said, “I believe my bell was with me at the time…”

“A confession!” said Harold. “So it was you all along!”

“What was me?” asked a confused Hannah.

“The one who murdered Jasper Trustworthy, that’s what!” said Emeraude.

Hannah gasped. “Jasper Trustworthy hath been murdered?”

“Oh, act not so surprised,” Harold sneered.

“But this is the first I’ve heard of it!” Hannah insisted. “I’ve been given nothing of this news, and I was never there to witness the murder firsthand.”

“Nor is anyone ever there to witness firsthand where exactly you are and what business you’re about,” said Emeraude. “I am most sorry to have to do this, Hannah, for you are family, but as the murder weapon was a Crier bell and no one can account for your whereabouts—”

From behind the trio of Crier backs, a cheery, not-quite-human voice piped up, “I can account for them!”

Emeraude, Harold, and Dorcas whirled around and tilted their heads up to behold the enormous, rather wooden smile of Jynks Jester. “Hannah was with me all morning,” Jynks declared. “She was acting as my spotter to ensure that small children ended up not within my blind spot. I have a rather limited range of neck movement, you know.”

Jynks Jester, with Stretch the sailor keeping a weather eye out for him, and the camera of Patty Smith keeping an eye on both of them.

“I was not aware he had a neck at all,” Harold muttered.

“I was not aware that he could talk!” Emeraude muttered back.

“Stretch the sailor was with us until a little after eleven, if my word’s not enough for you,” the gigantic jester went on. “And we never once went near the lake.”

“Hooray!” said Dorcas, clapping her hands. “That means Hannah’s in the clear!”

“Which means that we’re right back where this episode started,” Harold moaned.

Emeraude buried her face in her hands. “And the Queen will be here any minute!”





If it wasn’t Hannah whodunit, then who? And of equal importance, will the Criers be able to solve the crime before Her Majesty arrives? Don’t miss the stunning conclusion of the Bristol serial murder mystery, coming soon!

“Whodunit 8” or “WHATdunit?”

With the timepiece ticking down toward the Queen’s arrival, the Town Criers had split up to cover more ground on their murder investigation, with harrowing experiences on both sides….


As arranged, Emeraude a’Right and Dorcas Oddpick met with their fellow Town Crying cousin Harold Angel at the Globe Stage to compare notes.

“I hope thou hast fared better than have we, Cousin,” Emeraude sighed, “for Dorcas and I have had no luck at all with the floozies.”

Harold raised an eyebrow. “Really? I would have figured they’d go for that sort of thing, if the price was right.”

Emeraude glared at him. “If I wished to hear that manner of off-color jesting, Harold, I’d not have sent in foreigners to interrogate Chastity Trollop on my behalf. From what I can make of their Englitalian, Chastity has been in the presence of her sister whores and/or various clients all morning long, leaving no time to go around murdering anyone, including Jasper Trustworthy. So that’s a dead end.”

“Life is a dead end,” Dorcas said in that deliriously philosophical way of hers.

“Erm, yes. Encouraging.” Eager to proceed to a more pleasant topic (and, at this point, even talk of rat-catchers qualified), Emeraude asked Harold, “Get anything useful out of Amil Stands?”

“Actually, I spoke with him not, but—”

“What do you mean, you spoke with him not?!” Emeraude demanded. “Honestly, Harold, I give you but a single task…!”

Harold held up his hands. “Hear me out, Emmers, I’ve got a fine excuse. I spoke not with the rat-catcher because, as I was on my way to find him, I was ambushed just off of Trader’s Cove!”

“Ambushed? By whom?”

Harold leaned in close to whisper with the weight that no regular-volume declaration could carry. “By the Sirens.”

The tuneful terror of Renaissance Faires far and wide.
John Karpinsky risked his soul to get this photograph.

Emeraude’s and Dorcas’s mouths constricted into appreciative “O”s. Living in a port town like Bristol had many advantages, but also its dangers. Proximity to enchanting she-monsters of the deep fell into the latter category.

“Mercy, Cousin!” Emeraude gasped. “How didst thou manage to escape their song with thy soul intact?”

“I nearly didn’t,” said Harold. “The tuneful trio had almost reeled me into their clutches when I was saved by the timely arrival of Randalf the Blue!”

The wonderful wizard of Bristol.
Photo by Tom George Davison

“The wizard of Bristol?” Dorcas cried.

“One and the same. He cast a counter-spell that stopped my ears long enough to make a getaway.”

“That was a lucky thing,” said Emeraude, much relieved.

“’Twas a twice lucky thing,” said Harold, appearing even more pleased with himself than usual, “for whilst I was thanking Randalf for saving my soul, I had the presence of mind to ask him if he would be able to look over a corpse and identify what it had died of.”

“Silly,” said Dorcas, disdainfully. “Corpses can’t die of anything. They’re already dead.”

“Split not hairs, Dorky,” said an irritated Harold. “The point is, Randalf said he would give it a go; even grabbed Doctor John Dee for a second opinion.”

The marvelous mage of the Queen.
Photo by Ivan Phillips.

“An impressive collaboration!” said Emeraude. “So, the town’s wizard and the Queen’s mage walked onto a ship… Trustworthy’s body was still safe aboard the Gabriel, I hope?”

“Aye,” Harold confirmed. “And the good news is that, between the two of them, they were no time at all in ascertaining the cause of Jasper’s death.”

“Good news? That’s fantastic news!” Emeraude cheered, bouncing on her toes with glee. “That’s a good third of the mystery solved! Go on, what was it that killed him?”

“Yea, well, that’s the bad news,” said Harold, expression dour. “The murder weapon… was a Crier bell.”



What does this new development mean for our Criers?! Is it a frame job? Or could Emeraude’s search for the murderer end disconcertingly close to home? Follow here to find out whodunit!

“Whodunit 7” or “Bawdy Language Barrier”

If you thought grilling Skumm was down and dirty detective work, thou hast as yet seen naught…


Emeraude a’Right clutched her bell to her bosom, chewing her nether lip as she peered with trepidation at the Bristol hotspot known as Tuscany Tavern. “I know not if I can do this, cousin.”

“Wherefore not?” Dorcas Oddpick asked in perplexity (a state which, in truth, was by no means atypical for her). “You do appear to be clutching your bell to your bosom, chewing your nether lip, and peering with trepidation rather well.”

“Nay, Dorcas, I know I can do that. I meant I feel ill-suited to parley with yonder lightskirts, harlot, and trollop.”

“Such name-calling!” Dorcas tutted. “I’m surprised at you, Emmers. Is that any way to speak of a person?”

“One person, nay,” said Emeraude. Pointing to the tavern, she said, “Those three persons, aye.”

Lightskirts, Trollop, and Harlot,
making love to the camera of Nicole Dh.

As a general rule, Emeraude was not easily intimidated. After all, she was a Town Crier, an occupation in which bellowing charmingly at complete strangers was only routine. She felt herself a social match for just about anyone who ranked lower than the gentry. …except for Bristol’s women of professional ill-repute, Ginny Lightskirts, Jezebel Harlot, and the reason Emeraude was contemplating this confrontation at all, Chastity Trollop. (Not to mention Roxy Coxcomb, but the cast of this story is sprawling enough, so let’s stick with a lovely literary three.)

Official status-wise, employees of the town trumped floozies. Unofficial otherwise, the bawdy women dominated. During the last floozy/Crier encounter, it had been all Emeraude could do to keep Ginny from running off with her cousin Harold Angel, prevent Chastity from convincing Dorcas to embark on what the guileless girl had misconstrued as a career comprised of napping and cuddling, and absorb half the superficially innocent remarks made by Jezebel about trampolines and bananas. Emeraude had only barely gotten the Crying family out unscathed, and that had been without trying to run a murder investigation.

Photographic evidence of captain/floozy romance captured by Wayne Hile.

But there was a murder investigation on now, and Chastity Trollop was a “person of interest” in the case. Word was that the murder victim, Jasper Trustworthy, had made a nuisance of himself in connection with Trollop and her favorite customer, Captain Sir Martin Frobisher. The matter had to be gotten to the bottom of, and if Emeraude a’Right wouldn’t see it done, who would?

“Lady Crier!” a Romantically-accented duet called from behind.

Emeraude turned, and was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of her foreign friends. “Good den, Columbina! Pedrolino!” she greeted. “How goes… whatever you Italians do all day?”

Bristol’s very own Commedia Dell’Arte troupe, photographed by Ivan Phillips. That’s Pedrolino with the white hat, and Columbina with the flowers.

“Not-a so good,” said Pedrolino, his expression behind his custom artisan-made mask as sad as the strumming upon his ukulele. “We have-a lost Antonio.”

Stupino and Antonio, in less tragically separated times. Photo by Steven Bourelle.

Dorcas gasped in sympathetic dismay. “Not the oversized fish who so heroically saved your lives during your gondola ride to England?”

Si, the very same,” Columbina nodded, prettily batting her enormous lashes. With expansive, ballerina-like gestures, she elaborated, “Stupino and Arlecchino are-a looking for him all over town; and Dottore… well,” she waved dismissively, “he’s just-a being old, somewhere.”

“And in the meantime,” said Pedrolino, “we are-a looking for gainful employment.”

Emeraude’s face brightened as if from the glow of the Elizabethan equivalent of a light bulb flashing on above her head. “Of course!” she said, smiling widely at the sign borne by Columbina which proclaimed “Servants for Hyre”. “I can end one of your two searches here and now with a highly important assignment, if you’d like.”

“If-a we’d like?!” cried Pedrolino.

“We always-a like!” sang Columbina.

“We are At,” they said with a clap and a bow, “Your Service!”

“Brilliant,” said Emeraude. “Don your detective hats, Italians: You’ve got an interrogation to perform.”

Will enlisting foreign aid turn up any case-cracking evidence? How likely is it that the floozies’ double-entendres will translate for those speaking English as a second language? What is the Italian word for “banana”, anyway? For answers of relevance, stay tuned for the next episode in Bristol’s serial whodunit!

“Whodunit 6” or “Check, Prithee”

Jasper Trustworthy’s murderer is still at large! Are the Town Criers getting anywhere close to solving this mystery before Queen Elizabeth arrives in Bristol?


The Shanty Sing typically took place in the town hub known as the Sun Garden. Why it was called the Sun Garden was anybody’s guess, as the nearest thing it had to a garden was the greenery growing atop the trellis roofs above rows of benched tables, and it certainly didn’t produce any sun. (If anything, that boast could be made by the blazing New Market area, more often to referred to by the locals as the Serengeti.)

A shot of Emeraude on location,
as captured by Steve Sptizer.

But regardless of its name’s suitability or lack thereof, the Sun Garden made a fine place to sing at people, as they weren’t likely to stray far from the food vended on either side of the street. So it was there that sailors and their local lady friends often gathered to share songs of the sea. Whether the particular lady friend of a particular sailor was to be found there at this particular hour was more than Bristol’s Town Criers could yet say. They would know better once they actually arrived there.

“Well, we’ve arrived here,” said Emeraude a’Right, stopping to have a look around her. “See you any sign of women of questionable morals, cousins?”

Dorcas Oddpick pointed. “Does yon woman count as morally questionable?”

Emeraude and Harold Angel followed the line of Dorcas’s finger toward the rear of the Lord Mayor’s Forum, better known as the Seven Deadly Sins Stage for the colorful characterizations painted thereon. Strategically located near the depiction of Gluttony stood a mobile cart labeled “Skumm Foodstuffs”, and beside it, its proprietor, Tamora Skumm herself.

“Morally questionable? Mayhap, mayhap not,” said Emeraude. “Gastronomically questionable? In faith.”

“We might ask her whether any of the floozies have been about, this morrow,” Harold suggested. He wrinkled his nose. “Merely attempt not to breathe too deeply while downwind of her wares.”

Could partaking from this cart count as an eighth deadly sin?…
Photo by Wayne Hile.

The Crier cousins approached the cart, and Tamora welcomed them with a smile, a bright contrast in her grimy face. “Good day, Criers!” she greeted in her lower-class-meets-country dialect. “Might I interest you in the stone soup? It needs but a little more seasoning, and someone to sing to it, and it will be ready to serve!”

“Nay,” Harold turned Tamora down flatly when her eager gaze fell upon him. “I do not sing, ne’er mind what a certain Christmas carol hath instructed you to hark.”

“I shall do it!” Dorcas volunteered. Leaning over the pot swimming with long-dead plant matter (and animal matter which may not have been dead until it flew into the brew), Dorcas broke into one of her favorite original ditties.

I like cheese, yes I do;

I like cheese, how ‘bout you?

Muenster, cheddar, Monterey, and bleu!

I like cheese – moo, moo, moo!

Leaving her cousin to her second number about one of the many turtles named Ralph, Emeraude asked Tamora, “Have you seen any of the local floozies, this day?”

“Not since yesterden, nay,” Tamora said. “They were here for the Shanty Sing, them and the crew of the Gabriel.”

Badly-bathed beauty shot!
Courtesy of Ivan Phillips.

“Captain Frobisher ‘n’ ‘em, aye,” Emeraude nodded. This much they knew. Almost as an afterthought, she asked, “Did you see Jasper Trustworthy then, as well?”

“Marry, did I. Even served him a bowl of soup. Of course, it had only been sitting for five days, at the time, so it was a bit underdone.” She shrugged. “Still, as he was willing to pay for it, I did not say him nay. A sale’s a sale.”

Emeraude fought to keep her face from twitching its way from her “pleasantly socializing” expression to one of utter revulsion. If Jasper Trustworthy had actually ingested any of Tamora’s “food”, that might be the mystery of his death solved, right there. Word on the street was that Skumm had lost a few husbands, that way. “Did you see him eat it?”

“Oh, ‘twas not for himself, he said,” said Tamora. “It was to go to the rat catcher. Something about experimenting with different kinds of bait.”

“Ah,” said Emeraude. “So Jasper had business with Amil Stands, withal.”

What do you think: Does this face scream “harmless innocence” or “low-down dirty guilt”? Pic by John Kapinsky.

“’Tis yet another suspicious character to add to the list,” Harold groaned in exasperation. “How in England are we supposed to speak to them all before the Queen’s arrival in…” – he checked Emeraude’s timepiece (for he had yet to learn to carry his own, and Dorcas’s was still dangling over the soup) – “…Little more than an hour??” he finished.

“And we have a double-hawk in five minutes,” Emeraude recalled. “We shall have to divide and conquer, cousins. Two at one hawk, one at another, and then two to find the floozies, and one to find the rat catcher.”

Harold raised a hand. “I volunteer to—”

“You will interrogate the rat catcher,” Emeraude said sternly. “And you will hawk at the Fountainside Stage. Dorcas and I will cover the Three Sheets and the floozies. Meet you by the Globe in twenty minutes. Be not late!”

And with grumbles from Harold, one last cadenza from Dorcas, and a wave exchanged between Emeraude and Tamora, the Criers went they separate ways.

Who killed Jasper Trustworthy? Was it a Skumm-y food vendor, a rat of a rat catcher, or was it… someone else? Keep following the clues along with the Town Criers, and see if you can uncover whodunit!

“Whodunit 5” or “What Do You Do with a Dead Non-Sailor?”

When we left Bristol’s Town Criers slash amateur sleuths, they had just made a discovery most disruptive to their investigation. To wit, they were suddenly short one corpse.


“He could be anywhere!” Emeraude a’Right wailed, her usually unsinkable cheeriness sinking now. How could the Town Criers of Bristol solve Jasper Trustworthy’s murder – or even prove there had been a murder – with the body mysteriously vanished?

“Only anywhere the killer is,” said Harold Angel, grimly. “And the killer’s likely not had time to leave the town, yet. So the body must be somewhere nearby.”

“Mayhap Jasper went sailing,” suggested Dorcas Oddpick.

“Sailing on what, the Dreadnought?” said Harold, referring sarcastically to the ship moored permanently in the town’s New Market area, beside the Three Sheets Stage.

“Nay,” said Dorcas, pointing past the bridge rail behind her Crier cousins. “On the Gabriel.”

Emeraude and Harold turned, and contrary to all sensible expectation, there floated the Gabriel, flagship of Captain Sir Martin Frobisher.

The dashing captain himself, his likeness captured for the annals of history by Nicole Dh.

“How did that end up in Lake Elizabeth??” Emeraude wondered.

“Well,” Harold said, “Frobisher is known for being somewhat, ahem, directionally challenged.”

“Sooth enough, but is that not what his ship’s boy is for?”

As if invoked by the mere mention of the title, the red head of the ship’s boy appeared at the starboard rail.

Employing his finest Town Crying technique (deep breath, bellow from the diaphragm, never from the throat), Harold called up, “Ahoy, Anne! …Um, Drew,” he belatedly remembered to add. It was a well-known secret that Frobisher’s ship’s boy was, in fact, a girl; so well-known, in fact, that the only individual not in on the secret was Frobisher himself – and Anne had implored or threatened everyone to keep it that way. “Wherefore is the Gabriel sailing the lake?”

How Frobisher could mistake this fair face (as photographed by Wayne Hile) for that of a lad is anyone’s guess.

“Captain’s orders, Angel,” Anne Drew called down in her non-sailor-like upper-class dialect. “He insisted that we be the first sailors here, that he might map out the lake before anyone else, and thereby name it after himself.”

“The lake hath already been named after our most adored Queen Elizabeth, long may she reign!” shouted Emeraude. “What’s more, it hath already been included on the maps they do hand away free at the town gates!”

“So I did endeavor to tell him,” Anne said. “And thou canst see for thyself how well he did listen.”

“Have you been here long?” Emeraude asked, hopeful that one of the Gabriel’s crew may have witnessed Trustworthy’s body-napping (by which she did not mean Dorcas’s naïve theory of Jasper’s dozing in the lake).

“These last ten min,” Anne replied. “And an eventful ten min were they! The Captain pitched a fit over a trifle, and in turn pitched one of the men overboard! I lowered a rope to him, once the Captain’s back was turned, and when the lads and I hauled him up, he was bearing another fellow!”

“Was it Jasper Trustworthy?!” the Criers asked eagerly.

Anne Drew’s hat tassel bobbed in a nod. “Aye, and his soul gone down to the deep. …Or however deep this lake is. And that’s assuming the man had a soul to start with, as his behavior at the Shanty Sing yesterden might well lead one to doubt.”

“Wherefore, what did he did do at the Shanty Sing?” Harold asked.

“Let us say only that he caused some injurious mischief between the Captain and one of his favored, erm, shore companions.”

“And when you say ‘shore companion’…” said Emeraude.

“I mean a businesswoman of the night,” Anne clarified.

“Right,” said Emeraude, chewing her lower lip. She had dared to hope that it wouldn’t come to this, but it seemed now that there was nothing for it. “Don’t let that body off the ship, Anne Drew!” she called up. “We shall return for it as soon as we have means to examine it properly. In the meanwhile, cousins,” she resignedly addressed the Criers, “we have some Shanty Singing floozies to interrogate.”

Who killed Jasper Trustworthy? A hot-tempered Captain? A fraudulent ship’s boy? A wanton woman scorned? Stay tuned for the next installment when the Bristol’s Town Criers continue their quest to uncover whodunit!

“Whodunit 4” or “Witch Way for Answers?”

The serial whodunit’s trail of clues have led Bristol’s Criers to Bristol’s witches. Will an interview with the Normyl sisters cast some light on the murder of Jasper Trustworthy?


Cousins Emeraude a’Right, Harold Angel, and Dorcas Oddpick – found the witches of Bristol in the last place they looked: The town graveyard. As it happened, this was also the first place they looked, and as sisters Gertrude and Beatrix Normyl were there, they thought it most time-efficient to discontinue their search.

Gertrude saw them coming from some paces off, and prodded Beatrix with her broomstick. “Look here, sister,” the green witch said. “It is the Town Criers, come to make inquiry of us as to the fate of Jasper Trustworthy.”

Gertrude Normyl, green witch and wise-woman of Bristol, seen here with a tiny owl which may be less a clue than it is simply adorable.
Photo cred to Steven Bourelle.

The Criers stopped short in surprise. “And by what witchcraft didst thou know of our coming??” Emeraude wondered.

“Indeed, it were a deduction most simple,” said Gertrude. “For, as I did leave the Swedish governess under the mistaken impression that Trustworthy hath been turned into a lizard of wood, I knew ‘twould be a matter of time only before that selfsame Swede did proclaim her supposed triumph to all who could make sense of her heavily accented jabber. And as our town’s Criers have attuned their ears to any and all news, however questionable, I have expected the better part of this hour to be visited by you and hounded for facts.”

Eyebrows raised, Harold turned to Emeraude. “That was some clever reasoning. Mayhap we could use these wise-women’s aid in our investigation.”

Beatrix chose that moment to cackle, chase at shadows, and pull expressions never before seen on a human face, causing Harold to amend, “Erm, or mayhap not both of them. (Why is it that half the people we’ve encountered this morning are mad?)”

“We’re all mad, here,” Dorcas said serenely. “’Tis a wonderland. Curiouser and curiouser. All ways are the Queen’s ways.”

“Grammercy for the reminder, Dorcas,” said Emeraude. The Criers had no time to dally: Her Majesty, Elizabeth – by God’s grace, the first sovereign of England to bear that name – was scheduled to arrive in town in less than two hours, and it would not do to have Jasper Trustworthy’s killer running around loose when that happened. With that in mind, Emeraude promptly brought the conversation back around to questioning the witches, asking Gertrude, “Were you aware that the real Jasper has been murdered?”

Gertrude blinked. “Murdered? And wherefore do you believe he hath been murdered?”

“Because we found him dead in the lake,” said Harold.

Beatrix Normyl, blue witch and outpatient from Bedlam Assylum, seen here ogling Conrad.
Photo cred to Steven Bourelle.

“Poor Jasper!” said Beatrix, wringing her hands. “Drowned in the lake! If only he were Conrad. Conrad can’t be drowned!”

“Conrad being…?” said Emeraude.

The blue witch pointed with a tortured-looking backscratcher to the tip of her hat, where dangled a tiny fish’s skeleton. “Conrad!” she announced, and broke into another round of cackles.

“It looks not as if Conrad’s lack of ability drown was enough to save him,” Harold remarked.

“And who’s to say that Jasper died by drowning?” said Emeraude. “He might have been beaten, stabbed or poisoned – or hexed,” she said, with a suspicious look at the witches, “ – and then tossed into the lake afterward.”

“Mayhap your investigation would go more smoothly,” suggested Gertrude, “were you to first ascertain the cause of Trustworthy’s death. The method might point to the murderer.”

“A wise-woman indeed!” said Emeraude. “Come, cousins – to the lake!”

Leaving words of farewell and gratitude behind them, the Criers made all haste back to the bridge over Lake Elizabeth. But, as they saw upon arrival, all haste was not enough.

“Oh, no,” Harold moaned.

“Huzzah!” Dorcas cheered. “Jasper woke up from his lake nap after all!”

“He did not awake, Dorcas,” Emeraude sighed. “He’s just gone. Someone has stolen the body.

How was Trustworthy killed? Whodunit? And where in all of England is the body?? As the questions pile skyward, stay tuned to find out what answers Bristol’s Town Criers turn up!

“Human” or “Equal, Right?”

You hear about it all the time, anymore, this clamor for equal rights. You hear insistence that anyone and everyone have the right to marry whomever they wish, regardless of gender. You likewise hear demands that gender have no influence on things like the amount in your paycheck. All this and more, passionately argued by countless people.

Well, good for them, having passion. Passion is commendable. And it is a passion of my own that urged I write this piece, in a forum more conducive to it than comments on some Facebook friend’s status. I get passionately angry, and passionately sad, when I hear people make all this noise about equal rights for all… but they don’t really mean “all”. They mean all sexual identities, they mean all women, they mean all ethnicities, but there is a portion of humanity that they blatantly exclude: The yet unborn.

Unborn babies don’t count, they say; it’s not murder to terminate them, because they’re not human.

All right, then. What is a human? “A member of the genus Homo and especially of the species H. sapiens”? When do we consider that status achieved?

Says Wikipedia, “Humans are characterized by having a large brain relative to body size, with a particularly well developed neocortex, prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, making them capable of abstract reasoning, language, introspection, problem solving and culture through social learning.” It further makes mention of “mental capability, combined with an adaptation to bipedal locomotion that frees the hands for manipulating objects”. Another site follows that pattern of thinking, citing the capabilities of our brains and bodies as a large part of what it means to be human.

Well, that’s reasoning that’ll get you slapped by anyone with a loved one with a disability. “So what, because my brother lost his arms fighting in the Middle East, he’s been downgraded to subhuman?!” “My sister has a mental handicap – you’re saying she’s not human?!

Sounds like that’s somebody’s argument. After all, from what I’ve heard, doctors are more likely to encourage an abortion if tests reveal the unborn baby is minus a limb (my mother had a friend who bore a girl with only one leg, and so got such a story firsthand) or shows signs of another serious disability. These babies are not whole. Are they, then, not wholly human? Or are they simply deemed too much of a burden?

Have any of you seen this video, yet? Click the pic to give it a watch.

You know what’s a burden? Babies with all ten fingers and toes. Toddlers who are perfectly developmentally on track. Young children, older children, and hormonal teenagers. All of these are a huge strain on a parent’s time, finances, and psycho-emotional state. And yet their parents love them, and if asked in all seriousness whether they considered their children to be human, they’d answer that of course they are. Are they adult humans? No. But they are human nonetheless.

So again I ask: When did that humanity start? At some arbitrary week in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, but only if muscles and organs are such-and-so far along? When baby emerges to take her first breath, but only if she can survive without undue assistance? When brain and mouth can work together to take part in our complex oral communication, which some can never do? We’ve set the bar so low for all kinds of achievement; why all these hoops to jump just to be considered a part of the species?

What is a human? A person. Someone who will, if allowed to grow, someday “have or show those positive aspects of nature and character regarded as distinguishing humans from other animals”, as well as demonstrate traits “subject to or indicative of the weaknesses, imperfections, and a fragility associated with humans”. Someone who feels pain (and unborn babies do, quite early on). Someone who feels joy (have you noticed how some of the biggest smiles are on disability-warped faces?). Anyone who was created of a human sperm and a human egg and a superhuman miracle. (Even if your beliefs stretch no further than science, surely you can see the wonder in a new life’s genesis!)

I have a problem with a society that thinks a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own person extends to what she does with a separate person growing inside of her. I take issue with a world lobbying to allow us all any right we wish to claim, while simultaneously denying innocents the bare minimum right to exist.

Yes, rape is horrible. So is senseless death. Don’t take it out on the baby.

Yeah, but what if it endangers the mother? Then she should be a mother and put her baby’s life ahead of her own. (Come on, humanity, there are even animal mothers who do this!)

Okay, but you’re not ready for this baby. Somebody is! Hie thee to a public library and use the free internet to Google search options for adoption! There are would-be parents out there crying to love the precious lives that we are all too quick to throw away.

I’m sure there are other excuses. There always are. We’re good at that – excusing ourselves from doing anything we’d rather not, excusing any and all behavior because, you see, it makes us happy. And there’s nothing more important than our happiness. And when we say “our”, we really mean “my”.

We don’t want equal rights. We want what we want, and we’re mad when someone tells us we can’t have it, no matter what reason we’re given. Because we’re humans. Adult humans, which are just selfish children grown older, which are no more than unborn babies who were granted permission to live.

Your mothers didn’t abort you, equal rights fanatics. Please stop making a part of me passionately regret it.

* * *

Related links:

“We Know They Are Killing Children — All of Us Know”

“Practical Apologetics: Annihilating Abortion Arguments”

“5 Videos that Show Who Abortion is Killing — a Real Human Being”


“Who Didgeri-done It?” or “Whodunit 3, Never Mind the Aboriginal Puns”

The Bristol Town Criers’ search for Jasper Trustworthy’s killer continues!


Emeraude a’Right took a firm grip on her bell, braced for potential confrontation.

Dog, with the cowbell, in the singular headgear. Image cred to Steven Bourelle; click the pic and snoop through his photos if you lump me with the butler in your “suspicious persons” file.

“What hast thou got thither, Dog?” she asked, indicating the stick in the junk-seller’s hand – a hollow stick, aye, but of intimidating length and width.

The young man with floppy breeches on his head beamed proudly. “This is a jolly good trade, it what it is. I just sold my old cowbell, and got this fine musical instrument in exchange. Here, have a listen.”

Dog brought the end of the giant stick to his mouth and blew, producing a low, reverberating waa-waa-waa-aah of a sound.

“Hey, that’s not bad,” said Harold Angel, uncharacteristically impressed. “What dost thou call that thing?”

Dog scratched his head. “I’m not sure. Eloisa may have said when she gave it to me, but I can never really understand her.”

“Eloisa?” said Emeraude. “Who’s…? Oh, right – the Swedish governess!”


“Derp-i-derp-i-doo,” Dorcas Oddpicked said in singsong.

“Do that not, cousin,” Emeraude admonished. “It’s culturally insensitive.”

“I’ve got it!” cried Harold.

Emeraude turned to him, wide-eyed. “You think the governess is the killer?”

This incriminating image of Dog and the Swede likewise captured by Steven Bourelle.

“Nay, listen!” Harold said and, putting his mouth to his hefty ceramic mug, he intoned, “Waa-waa-waa-aah…” He grinned. “Pretty good, eh? A bit quieter than the stick – you’ve really got to get in close to hear it – but the sound’s almost exactly the same!”

“Very nice,” said Emeraude. “Now quit behaving like a member of the Madcaps Foole’s Troupe and let’s find Eloisa. It could be she was so keen to pass her stick onto Dog because she didn’t want to get caught holding the murder weapon.”

The three Crying cousins set off in search of the Swede, finding her just past the Town Square Public House, sitting atop the short set of stairs leading to nowhere known as the Stump Stage, and yelling indecipherable things at passersby.

“Your pardon, Mistress Governess,” said Emeraude. “Might we have a few words with you?”

Ja, words, ja!” Eloisa said agreeably. “I know a few.”

“Excellent well. Would you mind telling us where you were in the neighborhood of ten and thirty this morning?”

“Vere I vas this morgen? Ja, I vent valking everywhere. I valked here, and before that I saw the Dog, ja? – and gave him my didi!”

“Gave him your what?” said Harold.

“My didi!” the Swede repeated, gesturing wildly with her hands. “Big stick you blow, make music, ja? My didi-doo!”

“Didi-doos are aerophonic wind instruments developed by the indigenous peoples of northern Australia,” Dorcas said sagely. “Or are those didgeridoos?”

“Either way,” said Emeraude, “where were you just before you met Dog, Eloisa?”

“Before I saw the Dog,” she answered, “I get Jasper Trustworthy! Ja, I get him good!”

The Town Criers gasped at the blatant confession. “So it was you who killed him!” exclaimed Emeraude.

Eloisa frowned. “Killed? Who said anything about killed? I do better than that, ja? I have the witches do this!”

Laughing in triumph, the governess held up a blue wooden lizard, a very familiar hat in miniature upon its tiny reptilian head. “Jasper say he take me back to Sveden, but he never do! So I get him with the witches, and now the last laugh’s on him!”

The Swedish Governess, with… a Trustworthy lizard?? Photographic evidence by John Karpinsky, linked via pic.

The Crier’s turned away for a whispered consultation.

“She seems to think that lizard is Jasper,” murmured Harold.

“But we know that Jasper’s napping in the lake,” said Dorcas.

“Soundeth like Bristol’s witches have deceived the Swede,” said Emeraude. “And mayhap disposed of the real Jasper to prevent that deception coming to light.”

“Art thou’s thoughts like unto my own?” Harold asked.

“If you’re thinking we’ve got a show to hawk at the Fountainside Stage in five minutes, then aye,” said Emeraude. “And after that, I think we’d best have a little visit with the Normyl sisters…”

Have the witches of Bristol spelled double, double the toil and trouble for Jasper Trustworthy? Follow the clues to the next installment of my Renaissance Faire serial whodunit!