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Murder She Wrote (Without The Hot Flashes and Grey Pubes)

Sometimes, regardless of how bright and sunny the day, regardless of the obvious physical prowess and protective capabilities of your companion, regardless of your own skeptical nature, sometimes a place will give you a case of the full-on squinkies. This was the case for me a few weeks back, when I was trekking out through a cemetery to a second hidden cemetery with my cop friend whom (until I have permission to call him by name on the interwebs) I will refer to as various fun names. Today, let’s call him Constable Cthulhu. Dude doesn’t actually look like a giant squid-thing, nor does he eat souls (as far as I know) but I’ve always wanted to say I spent a Friday morning chillin’ with Cthulhu.

<Probably I wouldn’t go strolling through graveyards with him if he looked like this>

Pretty early in the trek, Constable Cthulhu and I established that, for a writer, I have a remarkably crappy eye for details…in fact, it’s possible I have absolutely no eye for details at all. If we played his “stop, look, and listen” game, I’d lose every time.

Constable Cthulhu: Wonder what those people are doing here.

Me: What people?

CC: Just checking out the graves, I guess.

Me: Who? Where?

CC: Uh, those two people right there? *notes my oblivious “wherezat?” stare*… *points helpfully with his “just in case Writerghoulie is a homicidal maniac, I grabbed this stick, which I’m totally pretending is just a walking stick” stick*

CC: The couple behind that low stone?

Me: Which stone? What couple?

CC: AJ, seriously? With the camera? By the tree? Right THERE.

Me: Oh, those two. I saw them. I thought you meant some other two.

CC: (not buying it) Uh huh.

I double-checked the map on my iPhone to make sure we were going in the right direction, amazingly didn’t get us lost once, and we ended up on a churned-up finger of land jutting into a pond that I won’t yet name. I use the term “land” roughly: it’s a raised pile of dirt, rocks, weeds, vines, and chunks of cement. There we discussed investigative techniques specific to the terrain, possible crime scene difficulties, the whos-whats-wheres of Canadian police procedures if this spot were a body dump, all the while keeping in mind that we were standing above/in/around the final resting place of hundreds of people who no longer had headstones.

Now…this is a cemetery that had been given to the church over two hundred years ago, abandoned due to disuse, and then in 1928 was flooded, submerging an estimated 663 graves underwater (some dating back to the late 1700’s). This place…boys and girls, it has started to fascinate me. It has the power to overrule all my logic and give me the nerve-plucking, gut-shriveling willies. I think it might be, specifically, the underwater part of the equation that’s giving me trouble. Algae. Darkness. Cold, wet abandon. Mud and silence.  The destruction of identity. It’s not right. It bothers me a lot more than a regular cemetery ever could.

I think I hid my horror well behind dual masks of legitimate curiosity and profound sadness. It’s important that I hide my fear. After all, I’m the Writerghoulie. I write horror…or, more accurately, Horror Light, otherwise known as “comedic dark urban fantasy” or “snarky splatterpunk.” I craft a flippant brand of fear for a living, so I’m not supposed to be a gigantic chickenshit. I’m also a scientist, so hearing ghosts in the wind or jumping at shadows is not gonna cut it, especially not in front of this indomitable powerhouse of a cop. Nu uh. I have a reputation to uphold. I’m supposed to be brave, too. Like, way-WAY brave. Researching this third book in the series with actual law enforcement input has made me feel like the star of my own version of Murder She Wrote….or, since I goof around a lot more than JB Fletcher ever did, perhaps a female version of Richard Castle (without the money or fame.) The last thing I need is to advertise that I’m a bumbling noob with a growing suspicion that maybe the things that go bump in the night don’t always have a scientific explanation.

Long story short: we spent three hours exploring, during which I got him stabbed in the hand. Hey, what do you expect being alone with a horror chick, a walk in the park? No. No, my friends. You get a walk in the park-like settings of an abandoned graveyard. With pain and blood. In my defense, it didn’t bleed that much.

On our way back to the car, Constable Cthulhu indicated with his stick again.

CC: More company. What do you think they’re doing?

Me: Hunh?

CC: Those two guys right there.

Me: What two guys WHERE?

CC: Seriously? (he stops dead in his tracks) You don’t fucking see the two dudes?


CC: Holy crap, AJ. The two men in the bright yellow vests with the neon orange X’s on their backs?

Me: Where?!


Me: Oh hey, look! There’s two dudes with a backhoe.

CC: Oh. My. God.

Me: Guess they’re digging a new grave.

CC: How could you not see them?

Me: I’m short! They’re…behind the…things. And stuff.

CC: You didn’t hear the backhoe?

Me: It’s not running! Wait–*listens* Oh, yes it is.

CC: *facepalm*

Me: Listen, Officer McCopEyes, I was paying careful attention to you.

CC: I wasn’t saying anything.

Me: I was watching you walk. For character research.

CC: That the story you’re sticking to?

Me: Give me a minute, I’ll come up with something more plausible.

We walked in companionable silence a bit more before I cracked a smile.

Me: You gotta admit, I’m getting better.

CC: You’re so not.

Me: A little better?

CC: I didn’t think it was possible, but you might be getting worse.

Me: But I could totally learn to see like a cop, right?

CC: No. *shakes his head* No you couldn’t.

*snerk* Someday, I hope to report that Officer McCopEyes was wrong: that I have become very good at noting details, and do so effortlessly and accurately and habitually wherever I go. Hey, miracles happen. Until then, I remain your dutiful Writerghoulie, reporting from the front lines of Horror Light research.

May the things that go bump in your night lack the teeth to bite.

(editor’s note: In order to finish her second novel, AJ Aalto requires the following: dark chocolate, white wine, a copy of Seeing Details For Dummies (that’s gotta be a thing, right?), a wicked icestorm (somebody arrange that for me, wouldja?) and a good haunting.)


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