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Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

10 Feb

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-eight.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the Flash Pulp Facebook page.

Join now, and get half off the cost of your next free Flash Pulp episode.

To join us, click here.

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, the Collective Detective finds itself investigating the loss of an Internet icon.

 

Flash Pulp 128 – The Absent Idol: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The 2nd of January

Welcomebot: Welcome To #CD-Chat, Harrisment!

FrameScalpel: I’m not saying most of her fans were following her for the right reason, but, honestly, her ability to cut clips in a way that fit her music was fantastic. She was like a combination of Thelonious Monk’s sense of timing, and Banksy’s sense of humorous visuals with a message.

MitchSlap: – and there was also her overdeveloped rack.

Harrisment: Stick it, Welcomebot.

Frame Scalpel: Hey Harris. Just explaining to MitchSlap why IdolChan was so great.

Harrisment: I was kind of under the impression it was the amount of cleavage she showed in her video blogging.

FrameScalpel: Screw you guys.

Harrisment: Ha, kidding, kidding. Lady like that wouldn’t continue to have the following she does if she hadn’t had some talent.

MitchSlap: I’m sticking with my theory that she’s actually a fake personality Spike Jonze used, but, seriously, at this point don’t you think the only reason anyone remembers her is because of the mystique of her disappearance?

FrameScalpel: No.

Harrisment: I do think that’s part of it, but Scalps has a point. She’s still the person I start throwing out links to when I find someone who’s under the impression that the vidder-community is all crappy dance music layered over badly edited anime-clips.

FrameScalpel: WTF

Harrisment: Hah – I don’t mean YOUR badly edited anime-clips.

FrameScalpel: …

Harrisment: Joking. You know I’m a fan of your work.

MitchSlap: Whatever – how far into your search have you gotten?

FrameScalpel: Well, I’ve been through all of her email addresses, her twitter account, and her Facebook communications. She had thousands of followers, and chatted with nearly anyone who’d send her something, but everything was routed through an encrypted anonymizer service, which I have yet to break, and I can’t find a single message that I can trace back to a meat-space friend. I still have no leads as to who she really was.

Harrisment: Well, don’t take it too hard, if you did know who she was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m between tasks at the moment, I can lend you a hand, if you’d like?

FrameScalpel: Sure, I’d appreciate it.

MitchSlap: Well, if you ladies are going to spin your wheels on this, I may as well crack the case for you. Send me what you’ve got.

* * *

The 5th of January

To: framescalpel@thecollectivedetective.com
From: harrisment@thecollectivedetective.com
Subject: IdolChan Clue

Hey,

I think I may have found something. I was watching video #23 – the one in the park? – and I finally caught a break: there’s a moment where she’s busy talking about how little respect she gets from idiots on youtube, and a guy with a dog jogs by. She mentions how cute the mutt is at 2:36, then she swings her phone around to record its passing.

If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the city skyline over top of the trees. I know you were thinking she was from New York, because of her accent, but that’s totally the Transamerica Pyramid – she’s got to be from San Francisco!

You weren’t around in the channel, so I passed the info onto Mitch. He seemed to think he could make some use of it, although, of course, he wants to play king and keep his hunches to himself. Still, who knows, that tool might come up with the next piece. I’m going to see if I can figure out which park she was recording in – the timestamp says it was around lunch on a Tuesday, maybe it’s somewhere near where she was attending school?

I feel like we’re getting close.

Harris

* * *

The 8th of January

To: harrisment@thecollectivedetective.com; mitchslap@thecollectivedetective.com
From: framescalpel@thecollectivedetective.com
Subject: Just Got Back

Hi, sorry about taking so long to reply.

First the greyhound was late getting into San Fran, then I had to figure out the stupid local transit. Five hours on a bus had me cranky, and maybe a bit confused, and I accidentally got on the wrong trolley.

After I finally got everything figured out, I had to walk another half-hour to her house. It looks a lot like the street view, but it seemed bigger, and a little more run down, in real life.

I’d imagined a lot of possibilities before I knocked on the door – I mean, it’s been years since IdolChan’s last video, so she’d be in her late twenties now – but the old woman who answered wasn’t what I’d expected.

I knew the address was right, I’d been staring at it long enough to have it permanently burnt into my brain, but all I could come up with when the lady answered the door was “Hi, is Lara here?” and she says “Speaking.”

I nearly fell over – but the woman had IdolChan’s eyes, and it was then that I realized that she must have been named after her mom.

We talked, and I explained about the search, and how Mitch had plowed through reams of yearbooks to find her. That’s when I started cluing in to how little Mrs. Dunning knew about the level of fame her daughter had, and has, online.

Even after my story, I’m not sure that she really got it.

Actually, at first she seemed pretty weirded out by my even being there, but, once she realized I wasn’t some crazy from the Internet, she wanted to talk about things. Eventually she showed me around the house.

The last room she brought me to was Lara’s.

It’s a time capsule, really – it’s got all these stuffed kittens on the bed. I admit, we both ended up crying.

The theories are wrong. She wasn’t Spike Jonze in disguise, she wasn’t killed in a car accident, she wasn’t kidnapped, and she wasn’t hired away by MTV to do video production.

Mrs. Dunning explained to me that she’d been sad for a long time after the move from Brooklyn, that she’d never really made any friends once they’d re-located – that she was lonely.

On her 18th birthday, with her ‘net down, and leaving only a short, soggy, note for her mom, she grabbed a bus and jumped from the Golden Gate.

After a while, we both dried up, and I just kind of drifted out the door. As she said good bye, Mrs. Dunning seemed to take a little comfort in the fact that, online, IdolChan’s legend lives on.

I’m going home now, but, if it’s all the same to you guys, I’d like to leave this case open indefinitely.

FS

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 123 – Moving Parts: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

29 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and twenty-three.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present, Moving Parts: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by the free audio-novella, Boiling Point.

Find out more at http://neilcolquhoun.com

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, the Collective Detective attempts to pick a murderer from amongst a mob.

 

Flash Pulp 123 – Moving Parts: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

“The six month period before the last date tracked in the trio of archives that acts as the backbone of the Collective Detective is basically considered the edge of the world by most contributors.”

Mitch straightened his tie.

“A lot of members of the collective hate working edge-cases, which is probably why I love them. The way some of those guys act, you’d think the ‘net ceased to exist once the NSA stopped tapping everything in 2008, but really its just that they’d rather not do the kind of legwork necessary to track something that went over the line – you know, joining forums, following blogs, trawling news sites.

“It really means that there’s plenty of leads in that period that are actually pretty easy pickings; things that go un-looked into just because of their vintage.”

The lawyer nodded, coaxing him to continue.

“That’s how I came to open the file on Jesse Barber.

“I was looking over the stubs – the list of cold cases that could do with some poking at – and noticed something about a furry who’d been stabbed to death in a parking lot. Now, I’m no naughty mascot myself, but I’ve always had quite a bit of sympathy for those folks. I truly believe that someday we’ll do away with racism and bigotry, but I’m also fairly sure we’ll never get to a point where we’ll tolerate a man in a raccoon costume dining in a high-end restaurant.

“Anyhow, he’d been at a meet-up with other suiters, outside a comic convention, when it happened. I know they have a bit of a bad reputation, but everything we dug up said it was nothing seedy, just a networking thing for other local people with a similar interest, and an opportunity to freak out a bunch of Burger King employees when they finally got hungry.

“My first step was to open a thread regarding all of the Facebookers who’d RSVP’d, and the contributors started nibbling at the list to see if there was any previous connection between the attendees and the deceased.

“Next, I tapped Cameron Wallace and Rory Cummings – uh, BallsToTheWallace, and Kid Icarus, to give me a hand with Jesse’s personal emails. Every editor has a style of working, I prefer to keep the juicer stuff close to home, even if it means a lot of tedious shuffling and sorting. I work with Balls pretty regularly; our timezones are just off enough that he can pick things up when I pass out. I’d never interacted with Icarus before, though, I’d just seen his editorial status set to inquisitive, which means he was interested in being assigned some work. His ratings were high, and I thought the fact that he lived in Seattle, like the victim, would be handy.

“The police had already been over the posting on Craigslist announcing the anti-furry NERF-bat flash mob, and we discovered that at the time it went live, it started quite a bit of debate on a bunch of blogs. Most of the furries on site knew there might be a problem, which meant cellphone cameras were out in force. My first job for Icarus was to get a posse together to locate any clips he could find, and to start a catalogue of the faces in the crowd.

“Then I got Balls on looking for secondaries – basically other accounts a user might have been logging on with. People can connect from anywhere; home, libraries, coffee shops, work; and you’ve got to try and back track it all to get the full picture. Sometimes a guy has a wife he doesn’t want accidentally stumbling onto the Hotmail inbox he’s using for the Tranny-Love mailing list, so he only checks it on his laptop, or sometimes its simply that a person only converses with a friend while at work – which is exactly what happened in this case.

“In the mean time, I was attempting to run down those who’d replied to the original listing on Craigslist, hoping to spot somebody with enough hate to want to kill a stranger. The police investigation had decided that it was probably someone in the mob – someone not content to stop at beating the pseudo-animals with fuzzy bats, and that seemed like a pretty logical line of thinking to me.

“I got nowhere fast though – I realized pretty quickly that way more people had shown up at the event than had responded, and I couldn’t find anyone bragging about anything unusual. Icarus was having just as little luck – cell-video still sucked pretty hard in 2004. The only one making progress was Balls, who’d discovered that Mr Barber was very careful about keeping his identity as Kip Hamsterton separate from his life as Jesse the tech guy. Hamsterton had his own set of email addresses, and a pretty large establishment in a virtual world called Second Life, and Barber had a one bedroom apartment and an overprotective mom.”

Mitch licked his lips and rubbed his scruffy goatee.

“We all switched over to letter sorting, and that’s when we found it: Jesse had had a fling at work, with an accountant whose laptop he’d repaired. It had ended abruptly, but even after he’d blocked Margie Feldstead’s address and stopped replying, she’d been sending him vicious emails calling him a perverted monstrosity. It was obvious what had happened – their first emails were full of puppy love, but sometime on or around the 12th, three months into the relationship and a week before his murder, everything had changed. He’d fallen deeply for her, despite her crazy notions about the government, and he’d probably thought that, if he could accept her nuttiness, she could surely accept his.

“We opened the thread regarding Jesse’s correspondence to contributor assistance, and the three of us started plowing into everything Margie-related that we could locate.

“I can sympathize with a guy like Jesse, but Margie was nothing but a closet crazy. She spent a lot of time in the dark corners of the Internet, where anything bad that happens is somehow the result of a Jewish world order conspiracy or an act of Satan. Within twenty-four hours of finding out about Kip, she’d ordered a ballistic knife from a place in Florida. They were supposed to be against the law, but I guess it was sort of semi-legal to sell the hilt and blade as a package, and the spring that did the shooting as a separate item. For the next few days her Google searches from home were entirely obsessed with the Seattle furry community, and when she found out about the flash mob posting, she had her excuse.

“When we came across the confirmation email with the receipt for the knife, I figured that was it. Still, you get into weird legal grounds any time you pull a case out of the archives, so I did what we’re supposed to do when we think we’ve got one in the can: I tagged it for review by the council; the suits over top of the editors who run all the corporate and legal stuff. It can take hours, or even days, to get a response, and, then, it’s usually just to confirm that they’ve called the police, and to thank you for a job well done.

“I don’t know why Cummings – Icarus – didn’t wait to hear the outcome. We don’t often get to see the perp though, except in the occasional news clip, and he must have been riding the adrenaline rush of having cracked the truth. Whatever the case, it’s obvious the intervening years haven’t been too kind to Margie’s stability. Lord knows how a woman in that state manages to get a hold of a handgun.”

From the behind the defense table, the accused, hardened by the time since the death of Jesse Cummings, attempted to lay Mitch low with her glare.

“That will be all,” said the lawyer.

The judge thanked him for his testimony, and the editor vacated the stand.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Flash Pulp 118 – Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

17 Jan

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode one hundred and eighteen.

Flash Pulp

Tonight we present Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)

 

This episode is brought to you by Mr Blog’s Tepid Ride – it’s sort of like Seinfeld, but angrier.

Find it at http://bmj2k.wordpress.com

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight we delve into the case of the tragic loss of SparkleFairy, as uncovered by a legion of volunteers and obsessive geeks.

 

Flash Pulp 118 – Dig: a Collective Detective Chronicle, Part 1 of 1

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Fourteen year old Harris Baker was losing patience with his mother.

“Look, it’ll take, like, twenty minutes or something.”

The sight of her son with something as low tech as a shovel in his hand had set the woman on edge, and she’d refused the request for a ride outright.

“I’m not interested in helping you with your silly Internet games,” she replied.

“This isn’t a game: SparkleFairy is a missing person’s case, and we’ve been months doing the work on this. Me and, like, fifty other people have spent hundreds of hours -”

“If there are so many of your friends involved, one of them can go.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Mom. I’m the closest. I need to be the one that goes.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ll level with you – you can give me this ride, or you can expect an afternoon running through the classic repertoire of the statesman of industrial music, Trent Reznor.”

“How dare you threaten me, young man?”

“I’m not, Mom, I’m letting you down gently. A threat would involve me accessing the online storage in which I backed up last summer’s vacation pictures.”

“Not the summy of tummy.”

“Yes, Mom, the summy of tummy, all over Facebook.”

He attempted another run at an explanation as they drove.

“Well, remember how the NSA under the Bush administration was tapping the entire Internet?”

“No.”

Harris winced.

“Well, it was. AT&T stored a copy of everything that crossed over their pipes – and then they accidentally opened access to their archives for 10 months. It was basically an open secret, and although I don’t think any one person has a complete copy, there are three major repositories currently in existence that, as a whole, contain everything that went up or down the tubes for six years.”

“Huh.”

Science Fiction“So we dig through it. A few months ago, a guy named Macedonicus put together a software suite that links up chat accounts, email addresses, and anything else he can figure the protocols for, with known cold case files outstanding with law enforcement. He threw the front end on the web, under the banner of The Collective Detective, and, a few high-profile links later, he found he had a whole volunteer workforce.”

“Is that you?”

“I’m one of many – I’m doing a little better than the average noob though. I’m an editor; one of the council’s trusted worker bees, not just some flaky contributor.”

“Council?”

“Yeah, suits mostly. The project is too big now, so someone has to handle the business end – and the legal stuff.”

“Should I be concerned that you’re up to something illegal?”

“Heck no, I’m here to fight crime,” Harris replied.

He tightened his grip on the shovel.

* * *

The break had come when another of the editors – an OCD-wielding nerd named MitchSlap, who Harris considered a candidate for Asperger’s Syndrome – had found an alternate email account on one of SpakleFairy’s registrations for a forum she’d used to talk with friends while in the school library. Tracking back to the new inbox, they’d found a message from someone that hadn’t appeared anywhere else in their search.

The address had provided an IP number, and six days of obsessive digging through that destination’s traffic had lead the crew to an anonymous comment, buried under 10,431 replies to a CNN article regarding the missing girl. It said simply, “She’s under the oak tree on the west side of the Franklin train depot.”

At the time, the response had either been ignored as the raving of a troll, or simply gone unseen in the sheer volume of chatter. Whatever the case, none of the other users could have known about the cheap pot the same individual had offered to sell the missing girl in the hidden mailing.

Once The Collective had a lock on the source of his connection, however, his life was an open book that read like the work of a man who loved high powered rifles, blamed delinquents for the world’s woes, and refused to stay on his meds.

Those involved in the investigation had since wasted hours staring at his house via street view out of morbid curiosity, but they couldn’t move forward – not without proof. It had come down to Harris to find that proof, at the abandoned station, itself buried under deep layers of graffiti paint.

He’d assured his mother that he was violating no laws in trespassing, but, since leaving her on the open pavement and jumping the short fence, he was beginning to have doubts. He’d spent a long while inspecting the location via google maps, but now he was there, and it was cold.

Following his phone’s GPS to the spot the online maps indicated was likely SparkleFairy’s resting place, he located the tree, just as he’d seen it in the satellite view, and just where the original damning comment had said it would be. There was a decent sized rock nearby, so he set his phone down, with the camera set up to stream video of his work, and began digging.

He hadn’t expected how hard it would be, or how much muscle it would take. The chat that accompanied the feed began to fill – long standing members were dragging in people who’d never even heard of The Collective Detective, and word spread like brush fire through the real time social networks. The room was soon at its maximum capacity, and those bloggers who`d managed access took to writing up events as they happened.

After thirty minutes, Mrs. Baker began to lean on the horn.

With an embarrassed glance at the camera, Harris held up a finger and walked out of frame. The gathered observers broke into a chaos of mockery, uncertainty, and speculation. A moment passed, however, and the boy re-appeared, now redoubling his efforts.

He thought he’d found her at the two foot mark – but wasn’t sure.

Picking the phone up, he focused the camera on the dirty shape, and his thumbs became a blur of communication.

“What is this?” he asked. “I don’t want to call the police and discover it’s a moose bone or something.”

Hundreds of Wikipedia windows opened; specialists reached for thick tomes they hadn’t referenced since their school days; and Encyclopedia Britannica found itself with a sudden spike in user registrations.

Mrs. Baker’s shadow drifted into frame, and Harris turned to his Mom’s approach. He pointed to the bone.

She returned to her vehicle without comment.

“It’s a human humerus bone,” typed fifteen people at once.

Somehow, Harris’ brain had difficulty absorbing the information. Seconds ago SparkleFairy had been an abstract data-point to chase, but now the indictment had come down: she was human.

The loneliness of the place, and the terrible thing that had happened there, hit him hard in the stomach – but he took some comfort in knowing that, although a single person had seen her laid in the ground, a thousand pairs of eyes had witnessed her unearthing.

For the first time in his life, Harris dialed 911.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License. Text and audio commentaries can be sent to skinner@skinner.fm, or the voicemail line at (206) 338-2792 – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.