Archive for the ‘Aaron Hilton’ Category

“The Vacuum of Self-Promotion” by Aaron Hilton

Last weekend I paid a visit to my favorite independent mystery bookstore, Murder By The Book, to skim the new releases, and catch up with my friend and writer colleague, Nick. He’s aware that I’m pursuing self-publishing, and when I selected the recent issue of Crimespree magazine, because it featured a pair of successful e-publishers sipping brandy in lounge chairs, a large garbage can full of their dead tree books burning, with the caption “The Future Of Publishing” at the top, I thought it would be packed with insider advice.

Nick encouraged me to read the article of the two writers interviewing each other before I purchase the issue, because it was more about a pair of good old boys patting each other on the back (a mutual admirations society) than sharing knowledge on e-publishing. I read the first column of the article and found that Nick’s opinion of the piece was accurate. I was a little disappointed. Then I figured maybe the magazine editor spun the article wrong, because one of the writers maintains an awesome blog loaded with information about e-publishing.

Nick commented that he too was hoping the article would’ve shed some light on how e-publishing is going to effect the future of publishing. I recommended The Complete Guide To Self-Publishing by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier, because the 5th edition contains a new chapter on social media marketing.

My friend responded that one of the reasons he would continue to pursue traditional publishing is that he doesn’t want to be bothered with matters of marketing and promotion. ‘I just want to write,’ he said. Well, before this debate could get any deeper and enlightening, more customers walked into the bookstore, so I had to leave.

This post is the perfect platform to get the idea to my friend and other newbie writers out there, whether they’re pursuing traditional or independent publishing.

The success of your writing hinges on your own efforts to sell your stories.

Sure, Big 6 publishers in New York/L.A. throw thousands of dollars in marketing and promotional campaigns for the Stephen King, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, and James Patterson books in their houses, but that’s because a large publishing house’s job is to sell paper, not the stories printed there.

Every day more and more writers (J.A. Konrath, Lee Goldberg, Marcus Sakey, Barry Eisler) are using electronic platforms (Kindle, PubIt, Smashwords, iBooks), social sites (Facebook, Crimespace, Goodreads), and blogs to build a readership.

How are they doing this? Most of them are starting out with baby steps, releasing novellas and/or short stories, either stand-alone, or as part of collection, and usually for ninety-nine cents or three bucks (especially on Amazon’s kindle because when you price you’re story at $2.99 or more you receive a 70% percent royalty, which is a preferable stipend compared to most traditional contracts only offering 15-20%).

Sorry. I got off track there for a moment.

This post is about how to begin using social media marketing to build a readership. Read the other posts on this blog. You’ll find information on the craft of writing, anthology databases, personal journal entries on dealing with and surviving rejection, and occasionally, flash fiction short stories.

On social sites you can build a page that’s for your personal identity, or even a character in your story. My illustrator on Facebook has a page for his personal life and a separate page for his artwork and the fans that portion of his life is for. As with chat rooms, use social marketing carefully and respectfully.

I’ve gotten in touch with a number of successful writers on Facebook and friended them, but if the pop up window says to only friend them if you know them personally, I only send a courteous, professional message and leave it at that. A mid-list author wished me a happy birthday once. As a result, I follow her work, even though it’s more soft-boiled.

The worst thing for a new writer to do is to post an ad about the release of their first book on the wall of another person’s page. You can ask for permission if you want, but even then, I still wouldn’t do it, as that published writer you made contact with will probably delete you from their friends list with a click faster than a sip of coffee. They’re apt to label you a spammer forever. Posting an ad of achievement on another person’s wall is the equivalent of a foreign country landing on the moon and spray painting the plague that commemorates the Apollo 11 landing.

A good method to start buzz and gain reviews for a book is to offer free electronic copies through your blog or a message board, as long as the reader agrees to post a review (positive or negative), on their own blog, website, or Amazon. J.A. Konrath did this with Draculas and Lee Goldberg did it with a re-release of his thriller Dead Space, which I recently participated in. Now, what’s your guarantee that the reader will just take the free book and run, giving you the middle finger, and not posting the review?

Faith, my friends.

You can also file that person’s name in the back of your head and if they ever show up at a signing for an autograph, refuse to give them one, then regale everyone in the bookstore how the jackass took a free book from you and didn’t follow through with their part of the bargain.

Just kidding. That may cause waves in the bookstore, or diminish the brightness of your star trying to sparkle in the void and vacuum of self-promotion.

Thanks for reading.


“The Definitive Marilyn Monroe Biography” by Aaron Hilton

A couple of weeks ago I tackled the chore of organizing the pit/office/second bedroom of the apartment so I’d be able sit at my writer’s desk in order to focus harder on my craft. This meant sorting through a great deal of books. A lot of them I’m holding onto, some I was able to trade at Murder By The Book (Portland’s most famous mystery bookstore) for some in-store credit, while a few others will be donated.

I came across many treasures. In particular a stockpile of Marilyn Monroe books. I know. Who doesn’t own a book about Marilyn Monroe? Whether it focuses on her photographs, films, life story, tragic death, JFK, RFK, or mental illness, there are mountains of tomes available about America’s iconic blonde bombshell.

For quite some time I’ve been plotting the backstory of my Generation-X private eye, Matt Grudge. He’s a third generation detective. His father was an insurance investigator in the Seventies and Eighties. I planned on writing about his grandfather being a Pinkerton operative from the Forties to the Sixties. Marilyn Monroe was going to be featured as a major character in this historical fiction novel. At times, I could still fool myself into believing this book had the potential to be my All American Novel that would bridge generation gaps, because it would reference so many icons from today and yesterday.

The key word here is ‘was.’

The definitive Marilyn Monroe biography, Inside Marilyn Monroe: A Memoir by John Gilmore, altered my vision. Weighing in at a little over two-hundred pages, Mr. Gilmore’s  frank and poignant rendering of Monroe is intimate and spare of bullshit. The Marilyn Monroe he writes about is a living, breathing legend who, as an orphan, was easy prey for the Hollywood identity grinder of the period to absorb and mold in an image that would make money. The only thing that kept her going were mutual friends (which he quotes throughout his book) and her love of art and poetry.

In Monroe’s final days depression, loneliness, and a dependency on pills took her life. End of story. But it’s not the end of her memory.

Not if the other biographies about Monroe continue to flow like the oil bleeding from a ruptured, sabotaged coastal refinery. The atomic sun inside the legend of Marilyn Monroe will fade away into the goo of tabloid journalism: lurid affairs, conspiracy theories, and true crime armchair theorists anticipating if her exhumed remains would bare any DNA evidence. Watch a CSI re-run on Spike or DVD for that kind of sensational crap, please.

So, back to how this has altered my craft. When I eventually write about the days of Matt’s grandfather, Marilyn Monroe won’t be a character in my novel. No matter what level of respect I could bring to her persona by studying material, which is 99.9 percent tainted, I believe her soul deserves to rest in peace.

“Two Steps Forward, One Step Back” by Aaron Hilton

A submission response from the editor of a mid-list publisher I received this last weekend compelled me to make a hard and wise decision regarding the self-publication date for my crime thriller.

Dear Mr. Hilton:

Thank you for sending the materials for your novel, THE GRUNGE OPERATIVES, which we discussed at the Willamette Writers Conference.  I apologize for taking so long with it, and thank you for your patience in waiting for a response.  I find the central idea of an “alternative” detective agency very intriguing, and think there is a definite market for this type of crime story.  Unfortunately I think the manuscript needs a little more work.  I found the plot rather overloaded—clearly you are not lacking for original ideas, but you may want to consider reserving some for future books in order to sharpen the focus and maintain a consistent narrative thread to keep the reader turning the pages.  Also, I think that your prose could use a little more showing as opposed to telling; descriptions often came across list-like as opposed to being portrayed in a more fluid, evocative manner.

I’m sorry this ultimately wasn’t for me, but I thank you again for the look and wish you all the best with it.


This is hands down the best rejection letter I have ever received. The editor obviously read the synopsis and sample chapters I sent. The criticism wasn’t all negative either.

‘I find the central idea for an “alternative” detective agency very intriguing, and think there is a definite market for this type of crime store.’

Now, as far as the cons are concerned, the editor is right. The current draft of The Grunge Operatives is overloaded with an assortment of cases connected by too many plot threads that do not allow the reader to focus. Then there’s the observation about my prose needing more show than tell to engage the reader in an evocative manner, rather than just giving them a list of what’s going down.

I did some research on how show vs. tell can be implemented. I need to engage the senses. If you would like to read an example of this check out the recent post (A Writer’s Bout: Show vs. Tell) at my personal blog, Musings of Mayhem.

So, back to how this effects the release date for The Grunge Operatives. I had planned on releasing it on March 25th, but taking into account the overloaded story, and my mantra of ‘show more than tell’ in need of sharpening, I’ve pushed the release date for The Grunge Operatives back to later this year. I hope to have it published shortly before Halloween.

Also, to correct the overabundance of ideas, the three cases in the book will be divided up into two novels. This means the Alternative Investigations cycle will contain six (perhaps even seven) books.

These choices were hard to make and I finally swallowed them, thinking of the thugs in The Crow chasing bullets with shots of liquor. Ultimately these decisions are the best path to take if I want to gather an audience and develop a professional brand.

Please keep checking back for updates.

I’ll have a cover for The Grunge Operatives to share with you soon.


The Ritual

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Aaron Hilton, The Whole Works

“The Ritual” by Aaron Hilton

You’ve seen Misery with Kathy Bates and James Caan.

One of my favorite scenes in that suspense thriller is James Caan’s Paul Sheldon character putting the finishing touches on a manuscript.

Remember? He’s in the secluded cabin in the snowy mountains. He’s got one cigarette and a wooden match next to a bottle of Dom chilling in an ice bucket, so that when he types ‘The End’ at the finish of his manuscript he can satisfy his superstitious tendencies.

As every journey has an ending, every journey has a beginning.

You wake up. Maybe the alarm clock beeps you out of your slumber in the morning. Perhaps you sleep in until noon. Have your upstairs neighbors ever woken you up banging their headboard, seeing how many orgasms they can share or hold onto?

For me the occasional case of insomnia makes my eyelids feel like they’re invisible.

I’ll climb out of bed and throw on some clothes. Sweats and a tank will do just fine, or maybe even a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Slipping my slippers on, I’ll pad out to the living room. You can skip the slippers if you wish, but a diabetic should never walk around in bare feet.

What time is it? Time is irrelevant. It’s time for coffee. Bust out the Stumptown coffee beans and fill the grinder; measuring is for people that like to see through their coffee. I’m a caffeinated writer that likes his coffee dark as the crimes in his imagination. Dump the grounds in the coffee maker and get the brew started.

As the drip begins, I’m recalling where I left off in the story last night.

My private eyes are working a stakeout in the Green Beans coffee shop when it used to be known as the Blend. The barista, an entrepreneur that owns a couple of cafe’s in the Portland area, and dyes her long hair a different color every month, has hired my protagonists to find out if a corporate coffee group has organized a group of thieves to steal laptops from her customers to drive the popularity of her independent shops down.

The detectives are skeptical, but it gets them free coffee, and a place where they can hang out to get some work done, because the summer is at its height in July, and the air conditioning in their offices is broken down, again.

This precursors a shocking discovery one of them makes in their e-mail.

Boot up the MacBook Pro, plug in headphones, open iTunes, then the Pages file of The Grunge Operatives. Select something alternative to match a pair of detectives that dress in grungy clothes with tattoos and body piercing. Nirvana. Maybe something a little more current like the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs. Turn up the volume to mask the loud upstairs neighbors that never learned how to walk and stomp around like drunken dinosaurs.

Pound the keys until the timer on the coffee maker turns the unit off and the first cup of coffee you pour has to be nuked in the microwave.

What’s your writing ritual?



Posted: December 27, 2010 in Aaron Hilton, The Whole Works

“Guardians” by Aaron Hilton


Eric Holt didn’t need Bing Crosby crooning, a tree decorated with twinkle lights, or a calendar to tell him it was Christmas Eve.

All the twelve-year alarm control ‘lifer’ had to do was swipe his identification badge to enter the UL central station. Six operators, himself included, filled the room to capacity in order to process the rainbow colors of pending or active alarms that flashed on computer monitors, three at each workstation.

Eric nodded at his supervisor, Kara Scarlett, as he shrugged out of his jacket to hang it up on the row of hooks to the right of the door. He smiled at her attire for the shift, which took advantage of the relaxed holiday dress code. Kara wore sweatpants, Elmo slippers, and a sweatshirt with a snarling bulldog on the front under the words Bite Me.

“Hey, boss. Anything special going on?”

“No,” Kara said. “Just the usual.”

“Right.” Eric took the only empty station across from Kara and next to Colleen, a seasoned operator that had been with the team now for almost three years. The cougar was sucking on a piece of candy between phone calls and sang Christmas carols over and over again.

Eric logged into the SIMS application they used for monitoring on the right and center monitor of his station, while the left computer was reserved for the corporate network. Sliding a headset over his salt and pepper hair that looked like it’d been trimmed by a chainsaw, he carefully positioned the headphone over his left ear so it wouldn’t rub against a larger earring his mother had given to him as a present. He glanced up at the flatscreen television mounted on the wall in the center of the room. Northwest Cable News was covering highlights of the week, including a pair of bombers that’d been sentenced to death.

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” Eric heard the hot blonde, Lizzy, at the station behind him comment into her headset microphone.

He paused at plugging his own headset in to swivel around and peek at the computer monitor she was typing real time comments on to glimpse the words ‘dead body’.

That sucks, he thought, then turned around to plug into his phone and log in to start taking calls. The incoming call light blinked like a heart monitor machine reading a patient with a heart attack in progress. He pushed the button to find twenty plus clients on hold for help with their alarm systems and it wasn’t even six p.m.

Eric pressed the Available button and took his first call.

“Alarm Control, this is Eric. How can I help you? OK. Fred Meyer South Salem.” His fingers typed the information on the keyboard as if he was breathing fresh air on a tropical beach. “Happy holidays to you too, Tom. Five minute break for the photo electronic fire exit to make sure its secure. Got it. No. Sorry. It’s too late to change your employee door break times for temperature checks tomorrow. Talk to you later.”

Call number two. “Your alarm won’t set. Is the front door closed? Yes. Close that. Good. Keypad still says ‘Not Ready’. OK. Put in the alarm code and press enter twice. The display reads ‘Motion’. You still have balloons hanging up? Yeah. Take those down. Put them in the bathroom or something. Why? They’re blocking the motion sensors.”

At the workstation diagonal from Eric, Max Grove finished chomping on a potato chip, then said, “Hey Eric. I bet I know where you really wanted them to put those balloons.”

Eric gave the fellow sarcastic operator a whimsical smirk.

His attention focused on the emergency cell phone hooked to the paneling of the central station’s rack which housed the receivers and servers for alarm signals. The ringtone sounded different, until he realized it was Theresa’s cell phone.

“Sorry, everyone,” the earth mother said. “Excuse me, but I’ve got to take this.” Snatching her flip phone, Theresa left the room, but not before reminding Eric that there was plenty of food the company had bought for the team in the test kitchen fridge.

“Thanks Teri,” Eric said. “If that’s your daughter in boot camp, tell her hi for us.”

“I will sweetheart. Thank you.”

The sound of Kara’s voice at being annoyed brought Eric’s attention back to the thirty pending events on the monitors.

“If you don’t have the code to set the alarm there’s nothing we can do,” she was telling a store employee. “You’ll have to call your manager. No. We can’t turn it on for you.”

One hour later the largest chain of one-stop shopping centers in Oregon and Washington were all trying to leave their stores in the space of thirty minutes. Two hundred locations calling six people in a room smaller than a corporate office restroom. Do the math if you want to.

But Eric already envisioned what the call stats would be. Ninety-eight percent of the calls would be answered in under twenty seconds, a golden standard for a central alarm station.

Colleen burst into laughter. “Merry Christmas to you too,” she giggled in a little kid’s playful voice. “You’re the last employee out. OK.” She dispositioned her operator comments in the Employee Door account for Tacoma Pacific Fred Meyer with a C: Data/Info Entered. A few minutes later when the employee entry door alarmed and reset on the screen, indicating the employee had opened and closed it to leave, Colleen cleared the alarm off with a B: Authorized Break.

“Lizzy?” Kara called out over Eric’s head to the youngest operator in the room who’d just turned twenty-three. “Tell me what happened at that Smith’s store in Downtown Utah.”

Putting her phone on work, Lizzy swiveled around in her chair. The Grinch adorned the front of her sweatshirt.

“Probable drug overdose, Kara. Grocery PIC was doing a bathroom check and found the guy slumped backwards over the toilet with a syringe dangling from his arm. Gross. I called the Loss Prevention Manager.”

“Good work,” Kara said.

A yellow signal indicating a burglary alarm began to flash at the top of the screen and Eric clicked Enter to grab it. It was a garden center rollup door at Tacoma Pacific Fred Meyer. He picked his line and dialed police dispatch.

“I’ve got a silent alarm at the Fred Meyer on Tacoma Pacific. Last employee left about twenty minutes ago. Yes, I’ll call a responder right away. Incident number? OK. Anything else you need from me? Right. Thanks.”

Eric contacted the store director and interrupted the man’s family dinner. Oh well, that’s retail. It sucks. Tough shit.

Twenty minutes of babysitting ones and zeroes later, Eric was told to pick a call from Tacoma Pacific’s store director.

“Where the hell are the police, Eric?” the director whispered.

“I dispatched them right before I called you. Why are you whispering?”

“Because I’m laying low from the two assholes dressed like Santa Claus looting my store.”

Eric called dispatch again and gave them an update. A little while later the director called back with joyful relief.

“They got ‘em, Eric. They got ‘em with the dogs.”

*  * *

For my work family of operators, programmers, and service co-ordinator in Kroger Central Alarm Control. Merry Christmas.


The Electronic Wave

Posted: December 11, 2010 in Aaron Hilton, The Whole Works

“The Electronic Wave” by Aaron Hilton

Earlier this month my colleague, friend, and webmaster, John Caruso, posted a frank entry about ‘The Electronic Tides Of Change’. In summary, he wrote about how some financial sources are reporting eBook sales are trumping hardback sales, and that in the long run this isn’t relevant because experts and theorists have been predicting the demise of paperback books for years and readers are going to read however they want to and writers are going to put words to paper either on dead trees or electronically.

I agree.

Next, he touched on the topic of eBook devices and how they don’t work for him . . .


If you’re a hopeful writer who’s disillusioned by the narrow minds and short-sighted imagination of New York publishing, grab a surfboard with me and start paddling.

On March 25th, 2011, I’m self-publishing my first novel, The Grunge Operatives, as an eBook on Amazon Kindle, and it will also be made available in paperback through CreateSpace.

I didn’t arrive at this decision out of laziness in the craft of writing, or to spite the business of publishing. It takes a great deal of faith and patience for aspiring authors to query agents, editors, or publishers in hopes that a form rejection will be replaced by a contract. On the other side you have publishers wading through piles of manuscripts looking for the next Harry Potter, Twilight fad, or Stieg Larsson anomaly that will sell paper.

See, that’s the freedom of a self-publisher I’m beginning to focus on. A self-publisher doesn’t have to worry about selling paper, or how many pallets of Dan Brown’s novels should be printed versus John Grisham’s, let alone where to store the copies that don’t sell. A self-publisher sells good stories using e-readers, eBook applications, and print-on-demand technology.

I sent out dozens of query letters and chapter samples to literary agents and a few publishers. Only one had the courtesy to critique my work and passed on the manuscript, mainly because it was too long for an imprint that specialized in re-issuing pulp classics.

Last August I attended the writer’s conference for Willamette Writers. All of the workshops I sat through kept referring to the pop favorites I mentioned above, while the agents and editors taking pitches shot down ideas the second it didn’t fit their mold; the pop favorites again. Or, they were vague with their advice.

After pitching to an agent that my crime thriller opens with my PI, who’s just awakened from a coma, returning to his office and discovering evidence that his partner of fifteen years has been kidnapped, the agent replied, ‘That doesn’t present enough risk to me’. When I asked the agent what they meant, they told me to read a book by one of the authors they represent. Sometimes, I can still hear crickets chirping.

Three good things did occur at the conference. I ran into John who invited me to maintain this blog with other local writers. Second, I met Jim Smiley. Third, a last minute workshop shared the success of a writer who got an agent by self-publishing her books on the Amazon Kindle.

I already owned a Kindle 2 at the time, and recently I upgraded to the latest generation model. The last dead tree book I read was Robert B. Parker’s last Jesse Stone novel. I’ve read more titles on my Kindle: The Tunnels by Michelle Gagnon, The Devil’s Mambo by Jerry A. Rodriguez, Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Sin City Spy by Bill Raetz (in PDF format) and The Last Run by Greg Rucka. Now, has the convenience of purchasing eBooks online diminished my passion for buying books at brick and mortar stores (a little, because Barnes & Nobles and Borders arrange the inventory they stock late and repetitively) or supporting independent booksellers?

Hell no. I’m a bibliophile. One of the coolest things about the Kindle for me is that it’s added to my collection capacity, while saving on crucial space. In addition to this, there’s a new wave of writers, both traditionally-published and independent, who are utilizing the Kindle and other e-reader apps to publish books turned down by publishing houses.

I don’t need Barnes & Nobles, Borders, or a major publishing house like Macmillan to approve or vet the books I want to read. Discovery is a substantial reward.

Another strong feature of the Kindle is how it’s leveled the playing field for writers who want to self-publish using Amazon’s Digital Text Platform.

If you write a good story, edit and format it well, outsource an illustrator for the cover and visual aids that can be used for the interior of the book or marketing, maintain a blog, present your digital identity on social networks, and price your novel at $2.99 or less, you’ll stand a better chance at finding an audience, than if you wait for a major publisher to risk their office space on an unknown name.

If you want more proof on this topic, consult J.A. Konrath’s informative blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing.

Wish me luck. Ultimately, that’s what makes a bestseller. That and a loyal readership seeking entertainment and escapism.


“Trichina” by Aaron Hilton

Detective Lindy Ferguson had just finished cleaning her kitchen after hosting Thanksgiving dinner, got her four-year-old daughter, Gillian, to sleep with only five pages of Alice In Wonderland (instead of the customary ten), and managed to steal maybe four hours of sleep.

When her cell phone lit up her nightstand, the ringtone of the theme from Dragnet telling her her captain was calling.

“Yeah . . . ” she grumbled.

“Sorry to interrupt your beauty sleep,” Captain Hicks said, “but you’ve got a homicide.”

“I’m not on call,” Lindy coughed, swallowing the expletive she almost blurted.

“Adams can’t respond right now,” Hicks explained. “He’s getting stitched up. Got stabbed with a butcher knife answering a domestic disturbance.”

The horrible news of a brother in blue injured woke Lindy up immediately.

“Is he going to be okay, Cap?”

“I think so. No major artery severed. He should be back on his feet by New Years.”

Lindy grabbed a pad of Mary Engelbreit stationary and pen with a snowman bobble head.

“What’s the address?” She jotted the Southeast location down in hurried shorthand. And she would have used her palm rather than a piece of her Mary Engelbreit collection, but she needed to grab a quick shower. “Felony Flats. Terrific. I’ll be there in forty-five minutes.”

“Lindy. Wait.”

Oh God, she thought, the captain only used her first name when giving her a reprimand, or at personal functions like Gillian’s first birthday party.

“What now?”

“Thanks again for dinner last night. Are you still sure you won’t share your family stuffing recipe?”

Lindy didn’t even bother to gratify that with a response and ended the call.

After pulling on a pair of black jeans, a purple silk blouse, her Glock in a shoulder rig, and fleece-lined leather coat, Lindy left a note for her family on the coffee table, then stepped out into the brisk forty-degree night.

While she warmed up her restored 1968 Hunter Green Ford Mustang, Lindy unlocked her iPad. She accessed a database developed by the Cyber-Crimes division that catalogued criminal activity. She entered the address off Fifty-Second and Henderson to track any recent updates.

A week ago one Geoffrey Shepard had been reported for a parole violation and when his parole officer tracked him down to confront him, Shepard assaulted her with a knife, then raped her. Several calls from the neighborhood Lindy was going into had reported sightings of Shepard. She tapped a link to the felon’s rap sheet. He’d been nailed for a GTA five years ago.

Her memory clicked on the day of Shepard’s apprehension. She had been one of the officers that corralled Shepard into driving his stolen Shelby GTO over a spike trap.

The evening was cold, but not moist, and once the windows were defrosted, Lindy shifted gears, and pulled out of her driveway in Clackamas. 103 FM plays Christmas music every year from Thanksgiving to New Years and Fergie began to sing a cover of “Santa Baby”. Lindy rocked out to the Black-Eyed Peas chanteuse all the time, but as far as she was concerned, Eartha Kitt would always own that song.

She double parked across the street from the location, grabbed a travel case and baseball cap from the back seat, then headed for the border of crime scene tape around the broken-down Victorian house that’d seen better days. One of the two uniformed officers that’d secured the exterior got out of the driver’s side of his cruiser to offer Lindy a cup of coffee.

“No thanks, Charles,” Lindy said. “Who tipped us off here?”

“Neighbor lady next door. She was supposed to have dinner with the family that rents the place, but they never answered the door when she knocked on the door yesterday afternoon. A couple hours ago, she did some nosing around and discovered all four tires on the family car slashed, then the family cat scared the shit out of her running out through the animal door.”

The officer panned the beam of his flashlight along the gravel path that lead to the stairs. Lindy spotted the paw prints of blood.

She placed the travel bag on the hood of the cruiser, then bunched her shoulder length blonde hair underneath the Oregon Ducks baseball cap. Lindy didn’t want any of her golden locks to get mixed with any evidence she collected inside. Grabbing the case, the homicide detective approached the house, sidestepping the gory animal tracks.

“Watch my caboose, boys,” she told Charles over her shoulder.

“Aye, Lieutenant,” the uniform promised as Lindy snapped on a pair of gloves.

She found the door locked, but before resorting to her lock picks-a trade craft Lindy didn’t have the patience for-she found a set of spare keys in a tin stowed away inside the bird house that hung above the archway of the porch.

Inside, she canvassed the dimly-lit dwelling, starting with the living room and kitchen, then the three bedrooms upstairs, and finally the basement which was a deathtrap of magazines and newspapers. She spotted a mildew-stained rag on top of one pile that was an out-of-print circular for Portland’s adult entertainment industry back in the day when she was a lingerie model to help pay her way through college.

She found the bodies of the family stacked like lumber in the tub of the basement bathroom. There were no weapon marks or bruises on the body to suggest they’d been slain by a weapon. Just feline bites and scratches where the cat had fed. Poison then. She examined their fingertips, along with the slack mouths, and hollow expressions of their death masks for any tell-tale signs.

“Gross,” she muttered. “What in the hell are you?” Lindy asked the tiny worm that crawled out of the adult male’s eye socket, leaving a slimy trail. She snatched a petrie dish from her evidence collecting kit, along with a pair of tweezers, and delicately placed the worm inside.

She took a picture of the creepy crawly with her cell phone and sent it along with a text message to an entomologist friend at PSU that lived with insomnia. Just before her cell phone battery died, he revealed that the specimen was a trichina worm.

“You’re telling me that these people died from trichinosis?” Lindy talked to herself. “Food poisoning? Then how did the corpses end up in the bathroom?”

She raced back up the stairs and into the living room. One of the pictures above the mantel of the fireplace showed the adult male with his arm around the shoulder of Geoffrey Shepard. Taking a deep breath, Lindy dropped her evidence collecting gear and unholstered her sidearm to aim it at the entrance of the kitchen.

A bowl or something rattled.

Barrel covering her twelve’ a clock, Lindy proceeded to step towards the kitchen, her heartbeat racing, her lips clenched to breathe quiet and shallow.

The kitchen was a mess of moldy dishes and food containers. Fruit flies drifted around the sinks garbage disposal and a stench forced Lindy to move her gun down so she could cover her mouth. The cat’s bloody paw prints were all over the linoleum floor and formica countertops.

It leapt from the top of the fridge to land at her feet, then scurried away.

“You little shit,” Lindy chuckled, following her nose to the smell in a pantry lined with shelves of canned food just beyond the kitchen and a little nook and dining room table.

The butt of a cigarette smoldered in an ash tray off center.

The foul stench led to a refrigerator next to a deep freeze, neither emitting a hum that they were operational. The fridge door was ajar and Lindy pushed it open all the way with her foot.

Trichina worms spilled out onto the floor. The hundreds that didn’t fall out were clinging to a ham that rested on a plate.

The door of the deep freeze flew open and Geoffrey Shepard’s ratty mop of red hair whirled in Lindy’s peripheral vision.

“Suspect on location!” she began to shout, but Shepard nailed her in the mouth with a fist. A mop handle smacked her hands to knock the Glock from her grasp and the weapon dropped. Agile as a tiger escaped from a cage, Shepard hurdled out of the freezer to reach for the gun, but Lindy sent it skittering across the floor with a swipe of her Nikes. The shooter swiveled underneath the fridge.

“Bitch!” Shepard yelled, giving Lindy a shove into the kitchen. Off balance and coughing from the blood in her mouth and acid reflex in her throat from the vomit she swallowed at touching the worms when she lost her gun, Lindy hit the floor on her ass, legs spread.

“Oh yeah,” Shepard said, grinning. “I’ve been thinking of this moment ever since you read me my rights. I’m gonna fuck you up so bad.”

As the felon lunged, Lindy hurled a fistful of trichina worms into his face, then rolled out of his path. Shepard screaming obscenities like a girl, Lindy grabbed the first kitchen tool she could, a marble rolling pin, and brained Shepard up alongside the head with it.

After he went down hard and began to moan, Lindy gave him a swift kick to the nuts.

“That’s for making me miss the Black Friday sale at Fred Meyer.”