SUPERIOR JUSTICE CHAPTER ONE: WHAT WAS I THINKING?

I’ve been toying with the idea of an annotated version of each of my Superior Mysteries. The idea is that I’d go through the text and footnote it with comments about what gave me ideas, or what I was thinking while I wrote a particular section. I think fans would enjoy that kind of information. I think it would also be a boon to other writers – I know I always find it interesting to learn about the process others go through in writing. I doubt I’ll ever release a book that way, but I thought it might be fun to blog some of my chapters like this. If you like it, I’ll keep it up for a while.

SPOILER ALERT:I may refer to later portions of the story that ruin the mystery for you. I’d recommend reading the book first, and coming back here if you want more Superior Stuff.

SUPERIOR JUSTICE: CHAPTER ONE (ANNOTATED) 

Daniel Spooner died on a Tuesday in early May, just as the lunch hour was ending in Grand Lake. He died in custody, just in front of the courthouse. He died because his heart was broken into three pieces by a single .30-caliber bullet. [My dad

tells a story that once he killed a deer in Northern Minnesota with one shot. When he dressed it (removed the insides) he found he’d hit it in the heart. The heart was in three pieces.]Later, some called it a crime. Many more called it justice. For me, once Spooner’s killer told me his real alibi, it became a royal pain in the neck.

Two hours after Spooner was shot, I was sitting in my office, drinking smooth afternoon decaf and parsing Greek verbs. Bach played quietly in the background. I vaguely remembered that listening to classical music could actually make you more intelligent. [This is true:

There is research suggesting that classical music does increase IQ] That was good, because Greek verbs make me feel stupid. [This is true of me, as well as Jonah] Even so, I was actually eager to study. Back in the day, I could never have imagined that feeling.

The phone beeped and the speaker crackled. It was my part-time secretary, Julie.

“Chief Jensen on line one.”

I grabbed the handset. “Julie, why do people say ‘back in the day?’”

“I prefer the expression, ‘time was,’ myself.”

“Time was, back in the day, you could use ’em both at once.”

“I hope Chief Jensen enjoys talking with you as much I have,” said Julie, and broke the connection.

I punched the button for line one. “Borden,” I said.

“Jonah, it’s Dan Jensen.” Jensen was the chief of the Grand Lake police.

“Hi, Dan, what can I do for you?” I sipped some more coffee. Surely God gave us coffee to show that he wants us to enjoy life. [I stole this from Benjamin Franklin who said the same thing, only about beer.]

“Well, somebody popped Daniel Spooner.”

“Spooner? The guy who confessed to killing Missy Norstad?”

“That’s him.”

“Wow,” I said. It’s a useful word when you’re waiting for people to give you more information, like why they really want to talk to you. There was a pause. I could tell it wasn’t comfortable for Jensen.

“Well, we don’t really know anything right now, of course, but our main suspect is Doug Norstad.”

“Missy’s dad,” I said. I waited while silence filled up the line.

“Come on, Jonah. You’re supposed to be the perceptive and intuitive guy here.” There was a plaintive quality to his voice.

“Okay,” I said. “I intuit and perceive that you need to pick up Norstad for questioning, and you want me to go along to smooth things over.” I sipped some coffee. “You Minnesota Norwegians really have a hard time just asking for something, don’t you?”

“I’m a Swede,” said Dan stiffly. [Most Minnesotans of Scandinavian heritage are still quite aware of their ancestors came from. When I lived there, I was often corrected in this way.] Then, after a moment, he added “Isn’t ‘intuit’ some kind of Eskimo?”

“Sorry about that. I’m sure you’re right about the Swede, of course. I think you’re wrong about the Eskimo though.”

“So, you gonna help me with Norstad? I mean, you are the police chaplain.”

“When do you want to do it?”

“Can I pick you up in fifteen minutes?”

“Sure,” I said. “Give me time for one more cup of coffee.”


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