No one called Nariko

No one called Nariko

I am not a game reviewer or game journalist. I am, however, an opinionated jackass and here on the Internet that is pretty much the same thing.

Michael Epstein over on the Escapist wrote an article on the upcoming animated movie by Sony animated by Blockade Pictures. The movie is based on the game Heavenly Sword, a part of the PlayStation 3 release line up way back in 2007. Yes, that was six years ago. Does that not make you feel old? Anyway, as I read this I found myself revolving around the very same question: "Who asked for this?" The game was insignificant at best and felt more like the tech demo it was more than a game. The story was uninspired, the characters got no fleshing out and the gameplay was marred by a burning desire from the developers side to show off the six-axis controller. Remember twing-twang? The pace-killing feature that returned from time to other when the game started being exciting? Sorry for reminding you.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about what other movies based on games that absolutely no one is asking for, so here are three suggestions, free of charge to Sony.

  1. Mindjack. A movie based on the novel concept of the main character bumbling through an obscure, yet inconsistent plot line and achieving his/her goals by taking control of every other person he/she meets on his/her way, proving to everyone the stellar writing and horrible plot does not get any better when you approach the world through the eyes of any other character, and I do mean any other character. With no background for any character in the movie we start in medias res and with a changing protagonist every half minute we are sure not to get any explanations as to what is going on as whoever the main character is possessing at the time runs from chest high wall to chest high wall. Also, make sure that the lines are delivered as well as the original game and have them say the lines without context to a white wall and use that recorded audio instead of actual voice acting. There you go, a pitch for a movie that will be every bit as great as Heavenly Sword, the story about that girl with a sword that seems heavenly. Covering the entire story of the game, I guess this movie would be about 45 minutes long, but would no doubt feel a lot longer. Like three days, or so.
  2. The Sims. Here is a nugget of an idea. Make a movie about Jack Package, family father of three kids, one of them a teenage girl and his wife Lara Frost-Package. The movie then revolves about how the family is dropped onto a plot of land where a house magically appears and they move in progressing from one piece of furniture in the house to the next covering even the smallest knicnknack and either approving of the existing of the object in question with great enthusiasm, wide spread arms and cheers, or disapproving the item in question by stomping the ground angrily and groaning alot. After the first hour passes in this way, we proceed to see the kids go to school, vanishing from the house, yet we never see them being taught anything at all, and mommy and daddy get jobs. Four hours pass where we see the family struggle to keep the crystals above their heads green, talk nonsense about strange symbols that come out of their mouths when they attempt to talk and read a lot of books. Thus mommy and daddy rises through the ranks and get more and more money. The climax of this five hour epic is reached when daddy is confronted with the opputunity to 'acquire' some money at work. After a snap decision not to take the risk, the father is promoted to the highest in this field and Jack Package continues his life, as does everyone else in the movie, for another eight hours with nothing new happening to anyone, because daddy can not be promoted further. This might seem a sexist idea, but you can switch mommy and daddy in this movie as you see fit. It does not really matter, who is going to watch it anyway?
  3. Metal Gear Solid. This is perhaps not fair, because Hideo(us) Kojima has on occasion described himself as a Video Games Director and his focus on excessively long cutscenes of 'narrative', which is his fancy way of spelling 'bullshit', does indicate that movies could easily be made out of the games, but let us for now consider the quadrology of Metal Gear Solid 1 through 4. The first movie would be a 23 hour long movie with action happening roughly for three minutes, filmed by a camera man under severe restriction not to shoot anything that does not clearly feature the ass of Solid Snake. It must be there and it must be in focus at all times. Then a ten to twenty minute exposition dump will ensure where Snake and the Colonel, or whoever, are talking in split screen so we can clearly see both of them talking. The colonel would go: "You need a key card to enter." Snake would go, as he always does: "A key card!?," punctuating every word over the top and with an air of severe repulsion at the mere mention of this idea. The colonel would then begin to explain: "Yes. Not-solid Exotic-Animal had the security increased conveniently yesterday." And Snake would go: "Not-solid Exotic-Animal?," where upon the colonel would start showing pictures of the man/woman in questions etc. You get the idea. Stellar writing as only Hideo Kojima can do it. The movie lengths would increase exponentially with Metal Gear Solid 4: The Movie being a 258 hour epic of complete nonsense. The Otacon-Snake exposition scenes are up from ten to twenty minutes to thirty to fourty minutes and the action and exposition is broken occasionally by unedited footage of a little girl trying and always failing to fry an egg. Every time. The majority of the exposition should take place on the plane as it does in the game so we get the correct authentic ambience of a humming and rattling air planes for at least 250 og the 258 hours.

There you go, free of charge. No, I will not be watching any of these of they ever get made, nor the Heavenly Sword movie. Sounds bad on paper and I wonder why Sony is wasting money on a project like this, when they could be making more games along the lines of The Last of Us instead. What is this idea of video game companies attempting to take over Hollywood? I realise that you might fight fire with fire and that both industries are terrible, but at least their products have not clashed thus far, but I hate to think what would happen if Hollywood decides to make video games? Oh, wait. Games based on movies to be released alongside each other already exist. And they flat out suck. Never mind. I am just sad that what Sony is finally getting good at is put on the back burner for a Heavenly Sword movie!

Games are BAD!

Games are BAD!

Computer games are bad.

Shit.  That's a first.  I usually ramble on for ages before making the point in the heading.  Ok, so I guess I'm done.

Heheheh, see what I did there?  Never mind, it's not important.

Computer games are bad.  This is what we are told by the experts.  Grand Theft Auto and war shooter games promote violence.  Games where you jump about collecting coins promotes greed.  And the newer wave of 'pay to play' promotes the idea that instant gratification and advancement can be achieved by throwing money at it.  (i.e.  Capitalism LIVES!!!)

To be perfectly honest…  I cannot completely disagree with all of these points.  Each is valid in it's own way, within a certain set of constraints, in a fixed situation.  And this, I feel, is where the problems arise.

To be honest, the biggest issue about problems with the games industry is the rapid advance in technology.  The people who are paid to look out for our welfare, grew up before computers existed.  Hell… I have vivid memories of, as a young kid, going over to one of our neighbours who had just got an IBM PET (not the same as a furby).  I was amazed at the sheep herding game where you hit a key and a second or two later, your green blocks (in the vague shape of a dog) moved.  Then all the other green blocks (in the vague shape of sheep) moved away from it.  The goal was to get the sheep shaped blocks into the pen (surrounded by green fence shaped blocks).  I was entranced!

But most of the people making the decisions are a decade or two older than me.

I should point out that I am not one of those child technomancers who could make a Sinclair Spectrum dance.  Or that even had the patience to sit there and type in the 7,000 lines of code in the magazines just to get a few blocks that (they reliably informed us) represented a horse, to move around the screen in the appropriate direction when we hit the right key.

But this is irrelevant.  My point is that my generation was the first to experience these boxes of technical magic.  And I only know about them cos I made an effort to (a bunch of courses, culminating in a computer science degree).  I'm also a major game head.  In addition to this, since I fell ill and lost my job in the computer industry, I have volunteered teaching silver surfers how to surf… silverly.  So I can understand how the generations before my own can be mystified by these contraptions, and how they will react to whatever they are told is the case.  And even though I have thrown myself into the culture of technology, even I have to struggle to keep up.

But what isn't widely publicised is the growing movement within the academical circles of utilising games as an educational tool.  For example, did you know that while access to computers and internet access is still hugely limited in the more developed areas of the third world, they are one of the largest growing areas of the purchase and use of mobile phones.  And many apps have been developed, in the form of games, to promote the ideas of sustainability of natural resources, health awareness and education?

But I digress.  Back to the 'certain set of constraints, in a fixed situation'.

For example…  If someone stands in the path of a fast moving motor vehicle, they will get hit by said motor vehicle.  People hit by fast moving motor vehicles are likely to die from the impact.  People are killed by motor vehicles.  Ban all motor vehicles.

This is a logical arguement, if you ignore the fact that less people die from being hit by vehicles than are saved because of them (ambulances, etc).  And the quality of life is improved for countless millions because of their existence.  But it does not alter the fact that some people are hurt, injured or killed because of them (and please don't argue that it is because of the driver.  That same person running down the road screaming 'NEEEEEOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!!!' with the same lack of consideration or awareness will not have the same effect as when they are piloting half a ton of metal.)

Sorry for that small aside.  I was trying to make a point.  Back to the computers thing…

I'm not really talking about the unsung advances in thinking.  I'm talking about the unrecognised benefits of allowing your kid to spend time on the console or PC.

The 'running around shooting people' games can only promote violence, right?  But that is completely glossing over the fact that these games have limited appeal when played alone.  If Bobby is playing it for more than about 3 or 4 hours, he is doing it online with and against other people from around the world.  This requires strategy and teamwork.  It requires communication (he's not just talking to himself there).  It requires overcoming language barriers and results in Bobby having contact with, and making friends with, people from countries and cultures that he couldn't hope to meet.

And those games where you jump about collecting coins.  Pointless, right?  But to progress, you have to jump up onto a platform that is just too high to reach.  So Bobby has to work out that he has to go back three screens and carry up a box to jump on, or pull a lever that raises a lump of ground, or climb up a vine, run across the tops of the trees and then jump down onto the previously inaccessible platform.  Lateral thinking.  Problem solving.  Recognition that the most direct, and yet unachievable route may not be the only option.

But those ones where you run around hitting monsters with a sword.  They can't be of any benefit, right?  Other than they promote the idea that not everything is achievable instantly.  That work is required to improve your condition or situation.  And with the right amount of effort, correctly applied, you can achieve your goal.

Ok.  These all may be valid points, but Grand Theft Auto.  Surely this can only encourage our children to believe that crime pays.  Well, yes.  If the parent abdicates all responsibility and expects the computer to provide all the moral guidance that the child requires.  IT'S A GAME!  Kids a brighter than you think.  If you tell them that stealing a car is wrong, they will believe you.  And they will still get a buzz by playing the game, because in this simulated world that can do the things that they know they can't in the real one.  But while they are doing it, they are still having to do jobs to earn money to progress in the game.  They are still learning the 'it does all just happen' lesson.

Now, while I completely stand behind all the points I have raised…  I still firmly believe that there is no substitute for your kids getting out there and running around with their friends.  Running, jumping, climbing trees.  It's a big part of growing up.  And talking to people you can see is a completely different skill set to talking to those you can't.

And I also believe that computer games can promote a 'lack of consequence'.  'Ok, I did something bloody stupid and died.  Never mind, I'll just have another go'.  But is this more life affirming than a parents 'If you don't do what your told I will…  Ok, now this really your last chance!'

But I never claimed that games were perfect.  But they are by no means the complete waste of time, or bad for the child…  as long as the parent does not use them as a proxy for bringing them up themselves.  Hell, my nephews had a superb knowledge of statistics, comparison and optimisation by the time they were 10, from playing World of Warcraft (under supervised conditions, before you all start shouting).  Of course if you mentioned the words statistics, comparison or optimisation to them, the would look at you with their 'wha?' faces.  But they were only 10.  And they could take down a boss quicker than some of my guild runs!  (That bit was for the game heads).

Everything in balance, and balance in all things.

I'm sure someone wise said that.  Ooh!  Me!!!  Just now!!!!

Just because you (or we) may not understand it, don't write it off.  And just cos the powers or media says it's bad, doesn't mean that it is.

Except maybe homeopathy.  IT'S JUST WATER!!!!

Everything is awry as usual – It IS the season

Everything is awry as usual – It IS the season

As December comes 2/3 through our Christmas holiday I find myself in a optimistic mood. For the first time in a long while I can see the meaning with all this darkness and cold weather… it is for the decoration nuts. I am happy to see that even nature are working together with the overly excited populous trying to make our power company cry for a month. Since they cash in round about January, I think they'll live… on a bed of money.

If we should get to the point in the next hour or so I would be surprised and once again… It IS the season! Now the thing that I wish for this year is once again the gaming companies’ attention. I never had it yet, I never got a hover car as a child so why should I stop dreaming now? …ah crap I got a Hoover instead, 25 years later my typo finally fell into place. You win again Santa!

If I could give any kind of suggestion to the gaming manufactures about earning easy cash and at the same time get our unbridled devotion, it would be to make expansions for older games. I know many of my favorite games have expansions galore and it would take 200 hours to get around most of it per game, but still? Wouldn’t it be cool if they made another expansion to Fallout 3 or Red dead redemption at this point?

We loved those games… apparently I have a mouse in my pocket. I loved those games! Games where the atmosphere and soft ending would give me hundreds of hours of game-play and I really didn’t want it to end. I have perfected my Fallout 3 game without a inch of cheat on my xbox360, I had 10000 stimpacks, over a million bottlecaps and every last special weapon in the game, even the ones you needed to get at certain times under certain circumstances so not to get half the game to hunt you down. I would love it if they said that they made another expansion, I would start over and use 300 hours again just for that!

Christmas is the time where you realize that tradition and the love of something old is just an illusion. You watch the same old movies, eat the same food, sing the same songs with the same people and get the same reactions from giving and getting presents. We are suckers at Christmas and the whole marketing system is forcing us to believe that doing the same shit this year is tradition and worth savoring!?

I blame myself for that! We can’t blame anyone else for being mesmerized by the shiny lights and fattening foods. So this year I wondered if game communities couldn’t do the same with games which we have a certain affection for or deem cult worthy.

New ways to make the same shit “hump” worthy.
(My way to clarify the mental feeling I get when something I really like is improved.)

For one you could make a expansion that enhances the existing gameplay. It is a lazy way of expanding by only putting additional content in the previous core gameplay, but with hard-ending games, the expansion option will only diminish the feeling of ending the game. I would hate to see a game like Last of Us have addons that brought you beyond the last scene. That game ended perfectly with a bad taste in your mouth and I loved it. How to expand it then? Additional content during the game! Improve broken details (they usually do that with updates, but slightly changing levels to give you more possibilities to complete it would be an improvement.) In games like Skyrim or Fallout 3 just to mention some that have expansions; I would find hump worthy if they made more expansions years later. It could be that more items could be picked up. Music was expanded so they knew more songs. Guards and general NPC’s got more or new default sentences so I would'nt be thrown to jail so often by choking people with their own shoes. Three Dog in Fallout 3 could have a additional quest where you find more music for him, like the violin quest for the ear stabbing channel.

What if you had an expansion like Hearth Fire (Skyrim) in other games like Zelda or Halo? Let people get the chance to interact with passive characters in Halo. Build a house on a desert planet or adopt a child to bring up and learn to play annoying instruments in Zelda before you blindside them with a boomerang? Why not bring dept to existing games; we would love you for it since we spend so much time personalizing our games and sandbox games in particular!

MMORPG games are a great example on what to do and not to do in keeping a franchise going for years. I would love to use a random example but they all fucking look like World of Warcraft. Keeping the franchise going for 7-8 years or so is impressive. The world expands and is rebuilt. They improve and balance characters and give new adventures and quests like it was candy. They have seasonal quests and entertainment that people either love to death or ignore completely to their heart’s content.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have similar situations in GTA5? Christmas season where characters appear either more drunk or as Santa? Snow would make it harder to steer and to see much ahead of you. I know it doesn’t snow as often in that part of the fictive states, but it’s a game for Christmas’ sake!

Would it be fun with show in the Capitol Wasteland? Yes! Would it be interesting to have Thanks giving in Red dead redemption? Didn’t we have that? No, but yes it would improve my gaming experience and when to play the game. They would make us use a few hours on certain dates to force their new ideas upon us. It could be a commercial trick to buy new things from the company. What about GTA5 advertising for their own expansion on billboards during the game? There is so many ways to interact with the players without interrupting gameplay and do we notice… If I run around the Capitol Wasteland for 300 hours, YES I would notice if there was a new billboard saying buy this it is greater than beer!

The one thing that is wrong with game like WoW, is that much of the casual game is downtoned and they don't use the possibilities they have to make minigames inside the game.

When we talk expansions, why not just put a corner more on an existing game. I know Mario games tend to be huge and if you run through it normally you done 8% of the content, but it could have more levels or new gameplay features like mini games that would give you upgrades during the existing gameplay. Grindtastic!

We are suckers for the grind and if they introduced a “Take a shovel and drag a skyscraper back to megaton to rebuild the capitol” quest I would be playing until the authorities declared me evicted or dead… or both. Anyone who has played Final Fantasy knows about the punishment of grinding tediously for days on end for the best weapons so you have a small chance to defeat that incredibly hard additional boss hidden where only the most hardcore players would look. Why do we do it? We love it, we look past the cruel punishment of wasting hours at a time getting nowhere, just to ease through the last couple of quests and show that omnipotent final boss prick that he/she can think so highly of themselves if they want, because we have so much overkill in our bag that we kill them with minor attacks just to show off our “erect gaming sticks!”

We crave the overkill. Being superior is one of our most astute feelings in life. The small victories we get for being right, the big conquests we get for being better than others measured by the standard in our communities are what we are craving. We feed of that feeling and it is one of the purest things we stride for when we pick up a game. We want to be better than good players. No one is mediocre in a shooting game (just as an example.) We are elitist, specialists, ghosts of war or simply an outsider that can take bullets to the groin as long as there is a chest-high wall. We want to be the best and why not? There is always someone who uses too much time being just that better than others, but who cares in a singleplayer game? Would you be that awesome or special if Skyrim was a multiplayer game? The one and only Dragonborn, roaring through the lands with 2000 others… no, we thrive with just being the one, the only one! sometimes.

Then there is the public punishment that is online shooters and survival games. CoD is a good example on how to improve your “erect gaming stick!” for the reason of wanting to show off. Many people find those games entertaining and I have in my younger days played in clans during the Counter Strike régime. I was good, but there was always someone better. Did I live as a unique character that could rise above the populous to be the [HEADSHOT], Did I live as a unique character that could rise above the [HEADSHOT], FFS never mind. The thrill and punishment of playing those games have nothing to add on the expansion of the game as a whole, but still they are interesting due to their fanbase. People could create new levels for them and the fans expanded the game. Whoa there, isn’t that what they did with workshops for skyrim and fallout 3?

There is large communities that would gladly expand the games to their own and others desire and that could be one way to improve many of the current sandbox games. People are using hours to make new addons to the game which just shows the producers that there is a base for further expansion. The best programmers are those who made the games and I know they are doing something else, but still… they are the ones who can improve the core mechanics better than anyone else.

Not all games can be fanbase expanded. Take console games or older games like Diablo or Mass effect; they have semi online connections that would screw the games balance if fans could change what they wanted easily. (I am not mentioning hacked items you dirty Diablo cheaters!)

Lastly I want to mention Minecraft. There is something done right. The game keeps expanding even though it is both online and singleplayer. It evolves nice and slowly like other games ought too. There are so many sandbox games and large RPG games with potential to grow even if they are 3-6 years old, why are they just left there? Why create years between Fable 1 and 2 when they could have been back to back with the same character?

I don’t want new generic games internet! I want the games I like; to grow and evolve. When a manufacture knows that he has done something right. Don’t plagiarize it, improve what works rather than make something new that so often have shown us disappointing results!

OHSHIOHMAGAWD!

OHSHIOHMAGAWD!

screamHalloween is done and gone for another year.  But that doesn’t mean that the scares have to end.  I’m a bit of a horror fan.  To the extent that I was a guest writer for a horror site for a while.  I’m also a bit of a game head.  So when these two worlds collide I get a bit giddy.  I grew up on horror films.

Quite a lot of my early teens was spent round Mike’s watching his extensive collection of possibly not legitimate videos.  Without him I doubt I would have ever seen C.H.U.D. or Rawhead Rex.

I didn’t get into gaming until later.  But when I did, I threw myself into it.  And of course, I looked out for scary games.  Sadly, there were not that many about back then.  In fact it was several years before I got a proper scare in a game.  And in hindsight, it wasn’t really that scary.  It was spooky and damned atmospheric.

The game was ‘Vampire : The Masquerade – Bloodlines’.  I know!  Not a scary game.  But the abandoned hotel?!!  The ambient sounds dragged me right into it.  I crept around jumping at every creak, bang and popping light bulb.  It was my first experience of well done atmospheric gaming.

My second time was F.E.A.R.  Yes, it is a first person shooter.  Not traditionally known for being spooky or atmospheric.  But not only is it a pretty good FPS, but it is also pretty damn tense.  In fact it is the only game that actually made me properly JUMP!  Of course, I did not scream.  I may have made a noise at the time.  Not a scream.  A noise!

But what made me do this?  I was creeping through an air duct.  Weird shit had been happening.  It was gloomy and spooky, and there were only occasional strategically placed lights.  So there I was, creeping… trying to keep an eye both ahead of me, and behind at the same time.  And as I was spinning around, something huge and black loomed before me.  I was startled, did not scream and shot the living shit out of it.  Shortly afterwards I realised that there was a light behind me, and I had bravely and heroically completely blasted my own shadow.

When you are sufficiently immersed in a game that you get that kind of reaction to a lighting effect, you KNOW that you didn’t waste your money.

The game industry has spotted the market for horror based games, but very few have got it right.  Hell, it’s hard to get a shooter without a ‘zombie’ version now.  There have been a number of great games with horror elements, but these are games with horror added.  Games like… Metro 2033, Red Dead Redemption – The Zombie Stuff, Borderlands – The Zombie Stuff, Sniper Elite – The Zombie Stuff.  All fun, but not horror.  Even games like the rather disappointing Resident Evil franchise and both Dead Island games (which I love), didn’t scare me.

Deadspace got a bit closer, but it was still a shooter. It had it’s atmosphere, but you were busy shooting shit and then had to remember that it is scary and atmospheric. Even the masterful Alan Wake, which did the tension beautifully, felt the need to get you to arm up and do a boss fight.

Don’t get me wrong.  I play them.  I love them.  But they do not provide the butt clenching tension followed by complete, abject running and screaming terror that I sometimes crave.  And to find these, it seems you have to go to the smaller, independent games.  The big publishers don’t seem to get it.  The closest the big software houses have got are the Silent Hill games.  But even they don’t quite hit it for me.  I’ve also seen clips of Outlast.  But it does appear to be spooky stuff interspersed with set pieces in fixed locations.  Not at all a bad thing.  But there are some other games out there that hit the spot for me…

Mental Hospital – Why you want to go into this derelict asylum is still a bit of a mystery to me.  But sneaking through the pitch black abandoned wards, lit only by your flashlight is damn spooky.  Not a blockbuster, but oozing with atmosphere.

Blindside – What would you do if you woke up blind, and found that town was overrun with a bunch of huge slavering beasties with large gnashing teeth?  Now you can find out.  Of course, being blind, you can’t see much of… well… anything.  At all. So there are no pretty graphics.  It is ALL done by sound.  You orient yourself by the sound of the ticking clock or the crunching of the previously mentioned gnashing teeth working on their last victim.  Both innovative and unnerving.

But still, the holder of the crown is… Amnesia : The Dark Descent – I am going to say nothing.  Well, nothing other than turn off the lights… plug in the headphones… and give up on the idea sleeping, ever again.  Ok, and this.  It’s not a long game, and starts a bit slow.  But when it kicks off, it kicks off!!!

And none of these three rely upon your ability to pump the nasties full of lead.  In fact only one of the three even features a gun (that I found anyway).  But don’t get confused.  They are not The Sims.

Incidentally, the title is a quote from on of the YouTube clips of people playing Amnesia.  Dead funny, but don’t watch them if there is even a chance that you may play the game.  Well not yet, anyway.

Chapter 05: Convolution

Chapter 05: Convolution

Saturday morning on a leisurely walk on the beach outside town I met Lara and Pouncer. This meeting was not as haphazard as I believed at the time, rather Lara had blown off June behind for a couple of hours that morning and had gone to meet me. "Lara," I called as I saw her round a corner. Pouncer strode majestically at her side his head held high and his tail wagging slightly. She approached me casually and from a coat pocket summoned a book: "We need to talk." At this point quite a few things happened at once as things tend to do in critical situations that take turns for the worse. As me and Lara were talking about the book, the diary, she pulled from her pocket the sun was rising, June was meeting with Jonas and Ron, and the lawyer was on his way to the local head of police to get a grip on this case before June's name was scathed by the sheer mention of it.

The front door was unlocked when June arrived at Jonas's house and upon entering she found Jonas in his usual position immersed in his usual entertainment while Ron was struggling furiously for Jonas's attention. His frustration at the time June arrived spoke volumes as to the lack of success on Ron's part and just how long he had been at it. "Are you trying to give me a bloody stroke?," he roared, but Jonas did not even flinch. "Won't work," June commented with a smile as she entered the room and in a swift movement pulled the power plug from the TV set. "Get ready for the whacky personality variety hour," she said to Ron as Jonas started to his feet. Before he could speak he was interrupted by June: "What is it today? Hm? Australian? Welch?" He did not reply and Ron shot June a puzzled glance. "Listen to me Jonas, if that is your name right now, I don't know, you are in trouble." "What sort of trouble?," asked Ron. She shushed Ron and awaited Jonas's reply: "Ooh, I know, I know, mother will be furious wiz me when she finds out I ate ze zausages," he replied in a thick Austrian accent. It took every ounce of self-restraint June could muster to keep her from bursting into laughter. She smiled briefly but suppressed it equally fast, walked up to him and grabbed him by the shoulders: "Follow me, please," and with a feral pull she dragged him across the room into the unlocked bed room: "Sit down," she said as she flung the kid on his missing parents's bed. "Your mother is gone, your father is gone," she continued: "Where are they? How long have they been missing." Ron placed himself in the doorway: "Jonas?" Jonas looked around manically and as his eyes found rest on a window, June quickly placed herself in front of it. "No escape. Talk!" "Jonas?," replied Ron and Jonas slowly replied: "Yes?" It was clear he was on the brink of a breakdown. "Do you know where you are?" "Mother's bedroom." "Not your fathers?" "It was his, too," he replied with a sulk. "Where are they now?," pushed June. Jonas burst out crying and every attempt at coherence was futile for quite some time.

The lawyer and the harpy pulled up into the driveway of a rather large mansion in the outskirts of town. They had an appointment to meet the head of police and they chose to meet him as soon as possible in his "humble" estate as a casual meeting rather than the strict business it really was to the lawyer and the harpy. They rung the doorbell and a ragged young man looking very hung over greeted them and asked them to step inside. The head of police greeted them inside the mansion and introduced the man at the door as his son, a local celebrity on account of his activity and talent in dart, at least according to the head of police. "Sorry to intrude," began the lawyer in a showdown of politeness. "Oh, it's no problem. Always happy to help a friend in need," replied the head of police: "What can I do for you? A drink?" "A bit early, but thank you," said Diane as she tugged the lawyers arm softly. "I meant coffee," came the response. "Yes, please, thank you," replied both of them. "Please, have a seat," said the head of police and lead them to a seating area with two large couches angled around a coffee table and a large flat screen TV in the far end of the room. Everything about the domicile was luxurious and the chief of police quickly returned to his seated guests with two large mugs of coffee on a tray along with sugar, milk and spoons. "Nairobi," he nodded at the coffee as he served the mugs to his guests politely. "Ah, Kenyan," nodded the lawyer with a smile: "A luxurious bean," and the head of police quickly made way back to the kitchen with the empty tray. "So, how can I help you?," he asked as he resumed a seat opposite the couple. "Well, your detective Lara," the lawyer started. "K9 unit?," asked the head of police. "Yes," "Dog named Pouncer?" "Yes," "Ah, good dog, excellent woman," the head of police nodded. "Yes, well, she has been involved with a disappearance," "What? She's on holiday." "Ask detective Miller, he looked at the place, too." "Ah, that young kid, Jonas?" "How do you know this?," asked the harpy. "I didn't get to the top by shutting my ears. And I didn't shut 'em when I got there," he explained. "Funny, though," he continued: "Miller's report didn't mention Lara." "But," started the lawyer as it resolved to him: "I see." "But what?," inquired the head of police.

Something puzzled outside the front door and Ron standing in the doorway turned around and called: "Come in Mrs. Stout." The door slowly opened and an elderly woman holding two large plastic bags stood outside with a quizzical look on her face: "Who are you? How do you know who I am?" "Come in," he begged. "No thank you," she replied and looked around: "Oh, you cleaned? Did you strike oil, fossils or dinosaur bones?" She asked this as she entered and shut the door behind her. "Are you deaf? Who are you?" June walked up behind Ron and Ron entered the living room. "My name is Ron, my father's a private detective." "I am June, and, well, it's a long story." "Length is relative," replied Mrs. Stout: "Now you're a strong lad why don't you put these away in the kitchen?," she asked Ron and handed him the two bags. "What is all this?" "Groceries and such," replied the elderly lady as she seated herself on the couch. June was standing in the doorway as Ron left the room into the kitchen and started putting the groceries away." "I see," said June. "Of course you do, you have two eyes," she replied with a chuckle. "You're the one who visits several times a week." "Three to be exact, except for holidays as such. Sometimes I have my granddaughter help me out, bless her heart." "Why?" "Well, look at the poor lass, where is he?" "He's in here." "Oh, do bring him out here." "I don't think that is a good idea," replied June and glanced at the inanimate boy on the bed. He was no longer crying, but his entire existence now seemed to revolve about metabolising oxygen and nothing else. "He's been in a rough spot," June replied and turned to Mrs. Stout. "Of course he has, that's what everyone say. All of us go trough tough spots some time or other. What differs is that some people have someone to talk to while they go through the rough spots. Others don't. And look what happens then," she replied and nodded at the bedroom door June was occupying. "What do you know about him?," called Ron from the kitchen. "Oh, very little. His parents vanished five years ago and he's been on his own ever since. I tried talking to the kid, but he just disappears into the TV." "You visit him thrice a week? What about all the du–," June started and was interrupted: "You'll see that when you grow old as me your back will not be as straight and painless as it is now. I haven't the back to clean an entire house. The best I can do now is his grocery shopping and I do so knowing I do the Lord's work."

"So you knew everything?" "I did," I replied after Lara had summarised her conclusions based on the diary. "How?" "Every year I have private eyes check up on ZenTech employees, corporate policy." "But you can clear his name and abolish the case." "I could." "What's stopping you?," Lara protested and we came to a halt. She turned to face me and the expression in her face told of immense anger. She blocked my way and looked as if she could have snapped me like a twig. "Lara, I have increasingly little left to do against June's step dad and her mother. He has defeated me time and time again in court and in front of June." "So it's all just a personal feud?" "No. I am not doing this for me." Lara's face was immediately cleared of anger. "June," she whispered. "So, you understand?" "No," she said and we resumed our walk. "I think so," she corrected herself after a few paces: "Are you sure this is what June wants?" "I am dead certain," I replied: "Well, I am sure she wouldn't agree at present, but in the long run." "It's a dangerous game you're playing," commented Lara: "Shouldn't we tell them?" "That would ruin everything." "Why?" "If anyone knew, everything will go back to normal and I would look like the bad guy in front of everyone. I'd lose ZenTech. I'd lose my fortune, my house. I'd lose June. But, I don't want everything to go back to normal." "So, I have to sit on it as well?," she asked. "Ideally, yes." "Why would I? I'm part of this, too, and I could lose my job." "Do you think June is happy now?," I asked. She pouted in silence. After a while she replied: "No." "And don't yo–," I started, but she interrupted me: "Fine, I get it, but you are asking a lot." "I'm willing to strike you a deal."

"But what?," asked the head of police insistently this time. "My daughter has taken it upon herself to help out Jonas," explained the harpy. "Quick sidebar," remarked the lawyer and turned to the harpy. "Do not intrigue him," he whispered and she winced at him. They both turned to the head of police who asked: "Don't intrigue me?" "We should go," said the harpy and started to her feet, but the lawyer pulled her back into her seat. "Look, our daughter might be mentioned in Miller's report." "June?," asked the head of police. "Yes. And we would like for her name to stay off the records." "Why?" "When her career kicks in and she takes Hollywood by storm we do not want the media to dig this up and use it against her in the tabloids." The head of police burst into furious laughter. "Okay, okay, before we get into this, lemme jump upstairs and print out the police report." He got up and while still laughing relentlessly he left the seating area in a hurry. "Are we in the wrong here?," asked the lawyer after the head of police was out of earshot. Diane shook her head: "This is what June would've wanted." "Are you sure, because it seems we are the ones causing the racket here." "What? Nonsense, he said himself that June was mentioned in the report." The lawyer nodded and took a sip of his Kenyan coffee.

The head of police soon rejoined his company in the seating area carrying a single sheet of paper. "This is the only part mentioning June," he said and read out loud the police report: "In tenacious duty to help out the deranged victim, June have proven herself a valuable asset to the investigation." "Could you remove that passage?," asked the harpy and the lawyer shot her a furious glance: "Why would he? Why should he!?" "Her name is in it," she said in a mocking tone. "I'll tell you what I'll leave that in there," said the head of police turning to the harpy. "You couldn't ask for a better statement than this," he continued and pointed at the paper. "I could; none at all," replied the harpy. "Well, we also have to consider the rest of this case," said the lawyer: "What if you never find his parents?" "Yeah," ranted the harpy: "I could just see the headlines: 'June failed at helping poor child'. 'Useless June'. Can't you see it?" "Or worse," continued the lawyer: "What if his psychosis is conditional on his own guilt for having murdered his parents?" "Yeah, 'June aided psychotic murderer'," piped the Harpy. "I think it would be in our best interest to just keep June's name out of the investigation entirely," continued the lawyer. "Our?," asked the head of police. "Yes, you gain nothing by mentioning her, and all it amounts to is potentially harmful no matter the outcome of this case." "So what's your leverage here?," asked the head of police. "Leverage?" "You want a favour." "Well, your son has some nasty accusations against him," started the lawyer. "Yeah, what about 'em?" "You do this for us, and I'll defend your son in court." "That's a good offer. Legal council, well good legal council, is expensive." "Sounds like a deal," said the lawyer with a smug smile.

"How do we do this?," asked Lara after quite some time in silence. The sun was slowly climbing its arch and the temperature was rising. "What do you mean?" "You seem to have it all figured out. You know what'll happen now, don't you?" "I do. They'll arrest him and in a speedy process try him for murdering his parents with his mental instability being alpha and omega to the case. All they need to do is shove one of his mother's old dresses in his face and watch him degenerate." Before she could ask I replied: "June told me." "Her step dad is a fantastic lawyer and with the right deal he picks the Jury, and they will condemn Jonas to a lifetime of prison." "We should warn him, then." "That is essential. Get him out of town as soon as possible. You've read the diary, you know what to do." "Are you sure he'll go for it?" "Positively." "Seems like a flimsy case for such a conviction," she remarked. This was true, a conviction of joint patricide and matricide based on a mental instability that might for all intended purposes have been caused by years long isolation is a flimsy conviction, however, given a formidable lawyer, a terrible judge and a handpicked jury it is not impossible. "How long time do you think we'll have?" "They'll arrest him Monday morning. He's harmless at present and first they have to coordinate a story with an expert in psychology to drive the case home." "You're aware they're using a private eye and his son to investigate?" "Yes, June told me and I'm adamant that James will pose as a psychology professor during the trials." "How does that work?" "Well, money, willpower and a lot of leverage," I replied with a smile. "Why do I feel like a pawn in a game of chess?" "You're not the pawn," I replied: "You're the queen." "I thought the harpy was the queen." "No. She's not on the board." "The lawyer then?"

"Tell you what, if there's more to this case, I will strike June's name from all records," concluded the head of police with a stern expression. "That is fine," replied the lawyer: "And the quicker this case is resolved, the more legal advice I'll give your son." "I'll get the arrest warrant right away and tomorrow morning we pick him up. Let's see what a few professionals can get out of him." "Agreed," said the lawyer and the harpy nodded as well. "Okay, we do not wish to impose further on your hospitality," said the lawyer and both him and his harpy wife rose from the seats. "Glad I could be of assistance," nodded the head of police who proceeded to politely lead them out. "See you tomorrow morning at 5 am," was the last thing the head of police said before he shut the door behind his visitors. The lawyer and harpy got in their car: "You should've insisted that he removed her name no matter what," she nagged as soon as she got in her seat. "He was adamant and sometimes you need to meet people half way in order to get your way entirely." "What do you mean?" "We got the hell of a good deal out of him by pretending to meet him half way." "So, what's the plan now?" "Well, we've gotta go see James first of all and then I've got some business to attend to." "Ah, so you'll order out?" "Sure." "Then I'll dine with the ladies and hit the town." "Hit the town?" "Network and all that. Pass some cards around and drop a few names." "Sure thing," the lawyer replied with a smile. "Remember that you got June an audition tomorrow." "How could I ever forget?," she asked in a sarcastic manner and grabbed her cell phone. "Honey darling," she started the conversation as soon as June picked up the call. "Mom?" "Listen, sweetie, I got–" "I can't really talk right now." "Oh, are you not out of bed yet?" "What? No, if I weren't — never mind, look, it's just a bad time." "This is important, you know." "Yes, I know, it's always important, as is what I'm doing right now. I'll call you back." "Don't you hang up on your mother!" The harpy never got to the end of that sentence before June had done exactly so and turned off her phone. "Why does she do this to me?" "She's just a kid. She doesn't know what she wants," remarked the lawyer casually with the majority of his attention still directed at the ongoing traffic around them.

They quietly drove across town when the harpy's phone rang: "Sorry, what's up?," asked June on the other end rather cheerfully. "Young lady, we're going to–" "To have a serious talk when I get home, I know." "I got you an audition tomorrow morning at 6 am." "That's great mom, really, but I've got other plans. Can't it be postponed?" "An audition can't ever be postponed you know this, sweetie." "Why can't I take a few days off on weekends and then work the rest of the week like everyone else?" "Because you're not like everyone else. You're special – talented, and you wouldn't want to keep that talent to yourself, would you?" "On Saturdays and Sundays I would." "Why do you always have to fight me on this? I work day and night to get you these auditions to get you into the big leagues and out of this town." "You get a call every now and then on roles you wish you could play yourself and then you pass them on," remarked an agitated June as the harpy ended the call in anger. She turned to her husband: "I really wish someone would teach that lady some discipline and some manners."

As they arrived at James's house they found the front door half open and they found James in a sore state on the couch. He had definitely come in drunk at a late hour this morning by the smell of the room and he had vomited at least twice. The harpy groaned at the sight and left the room swiftly while shielding her nose. "Oh, dear," remarked the lawyer as he discarded his blazer and only in his shirt grabbed James by the collar and lifted him up. He carried him into a bathroom and threw him in a bath tub. Mind you the lawyer did not know the layout of this place, so it took a few trials and errors before he found a bathroom. The motion of being carried around did not sit will with James' stomach either which quickly responded to the maltreatment by ejecting its contents. James groaned as he landed in the bathtub: "So cold, so cold," and he assumed the fetal position. The lawyer then opened the water and soaked James. The private eye immediately, at the shock of the cold water, started up, but his feet could not get hold of anything. Instead he just sat there with an angry expression looking at the lawyer: "What the hell are you doing?" "Sobering you up. We need you." "And you need a wee drink," he said apathetically and burst into laughter. "We have an arrest tomorrow and I need your expert opinion on the kid's mental condition in court." "That Jonas kid? He's nuts. You're nuts. Do we have any nuts?" "No, snap out of it. We need you to cover up that old lady." "I'm not getting in the covers with any old ladies, I can tell you that." "We need you to make sure she never comes up during trials!," roared the lawyer. "I'm never going to come up any ol–" "We get it, you're hilarious," the lawyer sighed and smacked him on the head, briefly but firmly. "Okay okay, she never visited. Deal." "Who never visited?" "Your momma," James replied and laughed again. "Seriously?" "Mrs. Stout. She had nothing to do with Jonas." "Good." "You're digging yourself into a hole, mate." "Why?" "She's vital to his living situation. If anyone asks how he gets food, you're in deep waters." The lawyer waited a moment. "In deep," James repeated with a giggle. "Got it all out of your system? You're a grown man with an adult kid and you act like a bloody teenager. Remind me again why I bailed you out." "Money." "Oh, that's right," nodded the lawyer. "And the wet work." The lawyer paused and looked at James with a patient glance. "Wet," he mumbled reluctantly and snickered briefly. "Work," replied the lawyer, got up and headed for the door. "Shower, shave and I'll pick you up tomorrow around 4:30 am. Arrest's at 5:00 am."

We chatted for quite some time until her phone rang. Lara stopped: "I'll see you later. Gotta take this and it'll be a while." "Talk to you later," I replied with a smile, waved goodbye and proceeded on my path around the corner leaving Lara and Pouncer out of sight and out of earshot. I had turned from the beach path and now I headed back towards town leaving the ocean's tranquillity and soothing effect behind me. In front of me the metropolis came nearer with each step I took and eventually it overshadowed me completely. I slowly disappeared into the masses of people and traffic. Throughout all of this we have yet to hear the story from Jonas's perspective. To alleviate this I include here a passage from his funeral speech.

I'd been many people. I'd tried to find myself again for years. No luck. The second I hit the bed I did not become a Chinese fisherman, a Kenyan coffee farmer nor a French scientist, no, I found myself as the five year old boy that had once slept between his mom and dad in that very bed. The feeling of safety and comfort flooded over me and I could almost bloody see them there besides me. I could almost feel their warmth again. Imagine that. (…) Then reality hit me, and swept me away again. It all turned to nothing – another illusion added to the pile, and the fading nostalgia left me only with sadness. A dear, maybe the dearest, memory torn from my mind against my own fucking will.

Before I completely disappeared in the metropolis and the city noise deafened me Lara caught me by the arm. She was slightly winded: "David. David! That was the master of police." I looked puzzled at her. "They're arresting him tomorrow morning." "Tomorrow? On a Sunday?" "Yeah, they're hoping for a quick trial." I saw my best laid plan before me crumble to pieces and yet, in the chaos of if's and but's I saw one solution, but it was a bit of a stretch. "Are you sure you want to go trough with this?," I asked sternly. Two cars cut close by us. "I don't know," she said with haze in her eyes. "Lara," I repeated: "I need to know if you're with me all the way here." She shrugged and looked at the ground. Then at Pouncer. "I'll lose my job," she replied. I had no idea how to respond to that. "Promise me, David, promise me I keep Pouncer." "I promise." "Then let's do it," I said and she smiled. "I'll go prep June and Ron, You take care of Jonas and James," I said and she nodded decisively. We both headed side by side into the city and disappeared into the chaos. Lara headed to Jonas's house and I found a quiet spot, called up June and asked her to meet me at ZenTech HQ.

"Hi pops," she said as she entered my office. "Wanna go for lunch?," I asked. "I've had lunch already." "Where?" "Jonas's house. Mrs. Stout, oh yeah she's the one that visi–", "I know," I interrupted her. "She makes a great chicken and bacon sandwich." "You had bacon?" "Yeah, on white bread, too," she replied with embers in her eyes. "Jonas will be arrested tomorrow at 5 am," I stated bluntly. "Wait, what?" "The chief of police and the lawyer is hoping for a quick trial it seems." "Trial? For what?" "Murder. They're trying him for joint patricide and matricide." "But he's so harmless?" "Is he?" "Well, he did pull a shotgun on us, so it's possible, but don't you keep check on everyone?" "I do." "And?" "He's not a murderer that's for sure." "Then the jury will recognise than and he'll be cleared." "No. If your mother's boytoy picks the jury–" "Right. They're condemning him for life." "Yes." "What does all this have to do with me?" "We need to buy some time to get Jonas in the clear." "I saw some of his diary. Can't Lara prove anything with that book?" "No. It says nothing about the disappearance of his parents." I tried my best to look trustworthy and genuine. I met her sad glance and it killed me a bit inside to lie like that to her face. She bought it. "How do we buy time then?" "We need to get Jonas out of this town and we need to do so as soon as possible." "And by 'we' you mean?" "You and Ron." "Why Ron?" "For this to work we need James's lackey out of the way." "So you want me and Ron to go on the lamb with Jonas until you say it's okay to come out of hiding?" "No." "Then what?" "I want you and Ron to–," my intercom buzzed and interrupted me. "Show him in," I replied on the intercom and Ron entered the room. "What's going on?," he panted clearly exhausted from running. "Ron, your father is assisting in the arrest and conviction of Jonas for murdering his parents." "What? No he isn't. He's dead drunk and passed out." "Are you sure?" "It's Saturday. I'm more than sure." "Well, according to Lara he's left the house with the lawyer this morning." Another lie. I hated myself for it, but I convinced myself this was what needed to be done. "That old bastard. I hope he's getting paid well for it." "He is. He'll get a refund." Ron nodded briefly and shot June a begging glance as if to say: "Never ask." "How do we stop all this?" "Well, you can be the first to track down Jonas." "Track him down?," asked June. "Yes. He's skipped town." "But you said," she started. "I know what I said, sweetie, you needn't remind me what I said because I was there when I said it and more to the point; I said it." "Here are two credit cards and two wallets with cash. You two must go and retrieve Jonas and keep him away from the lawyer and the head of police for as long as you possibly can." "Wait? We're travelling?," asked Ron. "Just the two of you. Keep in touch with me frequently as I have quite a few things to do here in town." "But," protested June. "Look at it this way. You get out of reach of you mother and your ceaseless auditions. And Ron, you get a break from your father." Ron nodded with a satisfied expression and grabbed a wallet. He turned to June: "You with me?" June looked sceptically at me and then back at Ron. With a cheer she sprang from her seat and grabbed a wallet. Ron shot me a thoughtful glance: "Wait, can't they just track down Jonas by tracking his cell phone? Or credit cards?" 

Lara ran as fast as she could and considering her training in law enforcement and her rigorous exercise routines she made her way to Jonas's house faster than I had hoped for. Ron and June had barely left to meet me when she arrived at the house. She burst through the front door to find Jonas sitting stunned in his seat staring blankly at a dark TV screen. "Listen," she panted as she entered the room. Jonas quickly sprang to his feet. "Relax, we've met each other before." "What the hell are you doing here? Did you run here?" "Yeah, I did. Listen, you've gotta skip town." "What? Why!? Is this a joke?" "No. I'm dead serious. My boss got an arrest warrant for you. They're coming tomorrow morning." "They?" "Long story." "I have all day it seems." "No, you don't. You barely have this minute." "Why are you in such a hurry?" "Because you need a head start. The bigger the better." "Why do I have to run? I've got nothing to hide." "Yeah, you do." "What?" Lara grabbed inside her coat pocket and pulled out a book. Jonas immediately froze as if he was hypnotised. "Where did you get that?," he asked in a calm voice. "Not impor–" "Where did you get that?," he roared at the top of his lungs. "I nicked it from the bedroom." "Hand it over!," he barked and reached for the book. "No." "Hand it–," he started again when Pouncer sprang in front of Lara barring his teeth and growling menacingly. "Look, I'm not here to negotiate." "What are you here to do then?" "I am here to get you out of this town as fast as possible." "But why?" "Because you are being sentenced for the murder of your parents!" "Bullshit. I didn't murder my parents." "I know. It doesn't matter." "And just why not?" "Because you are facing trial by the most dirty and corrupt lawyer in town." "So?" "Ugh, you're impossible." In a fit Lara turned on her feet and started towards the door. Halfway there she stopped: "Wait. Okay. Suppose you only have today as a free man." "What?" "Just make the assumption. You're a statistician. Assumptions should come natural to you." "All right, if only to make you get out of here." "Didn't Werner promise you one thing?" At the mere mention of this name, the kid dropped to his knees. He babbled incoherently in strange accents fluctuating rapidly. After a while he collected himself and got up: "How do you know that name?" Jonas had not thought the question through and Lara did nothing to reply than gently tap the cover of the diary twice. "Take this cell phone and this credit card," Lara said and handed him a wallet and a cell. "Why?" "You're also running from the head of police, so you've gotta lay low. Do you know where to go?" Jonas nodded and wiped a tear from his right eye. "Do you know how to get there?" "Flight leaves in an hour." "Good," Lara nodded as Jonas started packing.

Everything had been coordinated and Lara gave the instructions perfectly. Of course Jonas left town later than Ron and June did and by different means. This was intentional, after all nobody thought to follow the movements of some Michael Lee, the name on Jonas's new cell and wallet. On the other hand the lawyer would do everything to follow James and Ron on the trail for Jonas, and by keeping June alongside Ron I made the interests of the lawyer and the head of police overlap. Convenient that they would be travelling by slower means than Jonas and on a less direct route. Of course they would need some guidance, but that was an easy task compared to delaying two very competent and determined professionals. Of course, there was the affair with James. Obviously tracking people was right up James's alley and we could not have him join the pursuit.

Lara shut the cab door and waved Jonas goodbye as he took off for the airport. Pouncer was sitting besides her wagging his tail. She bent down to the dog and stroked him gently. "This is a far stretch," she said as Pouncer shot her a happy glance. "You're really this optimistic? You think it'll work?" Puncer licked her on the cheek. "All right, all right. I'll take your word for it, but we've still got stuff to do." She hailed another cap and got in. After a brief stop at her apartment to pick up some supplies she rushed to meet James. The cab pulled up to the curb and she got out wearing a very formal attire. Her hair was tied in a tight knot behind her head and in high heels she strode with great confidence up to meet James: "Mr. Andrews?," she asked with a smile. James froze immediately. "Hi, I repres–," "Where did you learn that name?" "Oh, please," she replied with a smile: "Who could forget such a remarkable character as yourself?" "I've no idea what you're talking about." "Well, I've acquired some materials that may spark your memory, sir." "What materials?" "Ah, so you do know, well, some items were misplaced in a trial up state and my client has happened upon them." "Who do you represent?" "Well it was a very long drive, sir." "Does anyone know you're here?" "Of course," she replied eagerly. "My boss is riding me pretty hard and he expects me back up state in an hour. As if!" "Who is your boss?" "He asked me to leave you this card," she said and summoned a small card from a pocket. James took the card and glanced at it. He started for quite some time studying every detail of the print. "This is genuine," he said and looked up. Lara was gone. 

I will get back and elaborate on the details regarding James later when it comes into play, but the feeling he was left with was a deep paranoia, an utter unrest from skin to bone. A ghost from the past had shown up at his very doorstep and handed him a card with nothing but an address. Of course it was a forgery, but it was a carefully made forgery. Every respectable visit card has a phone number and Website url, but this card only had an address. Haunted by his past James played straight into my hands and he skipped town immediately heading up state. It was a bluff, but he failed to join the head of police and the lawyer, hence everything worked out as intended.

"Where are we headed?" asked June eagerly. She was on board and so was Ron. "You must travel to Vienna." "Why?" "Long story and we have little time. You need to get running, the train lea–" "Train?," burst Ron. "Yes. It is important that you travel as slowly as possible." "Why?," asked June this time. "To buy us time." "Won't they just get on a plane to catch up with us?" "Possibly, if they ever learn your destinations they might just do that, but as long as you're not with Jonas," I elaborated, but I was interrupted: "We'll meet him somewhere?" "In Vienna, yes." "That's half way around the world." "I know. It'll take a while, listen, Ron, James will not be following you. You have to keep leaving hints as to which train station you visit and when so that the lawyer and head of police can follow your trail, but never let them know where you are headed. Make frequent stops and switch trains as much as possible." "Got it," he said with a smile. "Quick question," June interrupted. "How do you expect us to get to mainland Europe?" "By plane, obviously," replied Ron with a smile. "Actually," I said hesitant. "What?," asked both of them sceptically in unison. Their tone and expressions begged me the question: "Are you kidding me? Are you insane?" "Boat tickets are in the wallets. That gives you a deadline." "I'm not going to sail across the pacific," denied June and threw her wallet onto my desk. "Not many people ride the Queen Mary," said Ron with a smile owning up to the challenge. "It's a six day fucking boat ride!" "Six days on international waters without auditions and your mother. Without supervision." She slowly made her way to the desk and picked up the wallet. "Okay, for your sake, but you owe me. Big time," she said with a pointed finger at my face. "When do we leave?," asked Ron. "First train leaves in an hour. Travel light and remember to leave a few breadcrumbs for your entourage." "Sure. Ready Gretel?," Ron asked turning to June. "See you there in 50 minutes, Hansel," she replied with a sly smile.

Sunday morning at 6 AM the head of police and the lawyer arrived at Jonas's house. After making their way through the green onslaught of furious shrubbery they found an open front door. The house was cleaned and empty. Not a trace of Jonas. Not a trace of anyone packing luggage, or really that anyone had lived there in the last seven days. The fridge was empty, the power was out and the dust was beginning to settle. "Place's empty," remarked an officer. The lawyer shot the head of police a frustrated glance: "I– How is this possible? First James and now this?" "Probably that kid Ron," remarked the head of police: "Kid must've known something and bailed him out." The lawyer grabbed his phone and called June. I picked up. "Where are you?" "Oh, I'm sorry. I think June must've left her phone at my place yesterday. Didn't she come home last night?" "Listen you, where is she?" "She was supposed to go back to your place and sleep as usual." "She never came in. We thought she was staying with you, against our agreement by the way." "Look, it's Sunday morning and I am a little tired. If nagging's all you've got, I'm hanging up." "David," he pleaded: "I think it would interest you to know your employee Jonas is missing as well." "Ah, well, kids do take after their parents." "Very funny–" "Thank you." "Oy! This has you written all over it." "What has me written all over? Did you find my birth certificate?" He hung up in anger. He then called Ron. I picked up. "Yeah, funny thing, Ron must've done the same thing." The dial tone immediately ensued. "They've lead Jonas out of town," the lawyer sighed. "Damn. A 12 hour head start. They could be half way around the world by now." "We've gotta find them." "We?," coughed the head of police. "You're coming with me." "I don't think so." "Look, the kids clearly skipped town because there is something to hide. Jonas is a delusional criminal on the loose. You're a policeman, damn it." "So?" "It's your job t–" "My job is many things. I've got no jurisdiction outside of town, let alone outside of this country." "I'm not asking you as a policeman." "Seems to me th–" "Deal was to get him arrested. For now we only have to bring him back." "How do you plan to do that? Interpol?" "No, that would be jumping the gun a bit. We have no clear evidence." "Then what?" "Well, we're two and he's alone. He's small for his age, too." "Are you saying what I think you're saying?" "Yes." "No," replied the head of police after a brief pause. The lawyer replied with a brief chuckle: "For the kids?" No reaction. The lawyer tried again: "I'll pay?" "Let's get to it."

And thus everything was set in motion. The lawyer and the head of police set out to catch June and Ron lacking any leads on Jonas himself. They worked from the assumption that all the kids were travelling together. June and Ron were long gone. Jonas was making his way to Europe aptly. The head of police accessed James's credit card information and found a transaction at the train station. The kid was competent. Although I had provided him cash galore, he still used James's cell phone and wallet to leave a trail for the lawyer and the head of police to follow. So who was Werner, the name that sent Jonas to the floor. Werner is the name of Jonas's diseased dad. He died mere two months before the passing of Jonas's mother Molly; Molly Stout. Little did Jonas know that his aunt, Helen Stout, had been taking care of him to the best of her abilities for five years without ever receiving a single sign of gratitude, or even recognition.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Probably the only American tradition we haven’t adopted in Norway. We have Valentine’s day, Halloween and Black Friday. Not surprisingly, all traditions that make tradesmen happy.
So why not Thanksgiving?
Maybe because we are so ungrateful for what we have, and don’t see the need to give thanks for everything. We’re so jealous that our neighbour has the newest iPhone (even if ours is only a month old). We can’t stand the thought of anyone making more money, or being thinner, or richer, or taking more trips to destinations further away.
We want it all, and we want it now!

There are a few exceptions. Myself, for one. I have neither iPhone nor a lot of money. However, I do have a lot of things of which I am grateful.

So this is my gratefulness list:
I am grateful for every morning where I don’t have to spend a half-hour adjusting my bones just to get out of bed.
I am grateful for my GP, my neurologist and my physical therapist who all want to find out what is wrong with me, and thereby improve my quality of life.
I am grateful for a great work environment that allows me to use the time necessary to get back to work, and an employer which is interested in getting me through this degree.
I am grateful that I have a roof over my head (even if the house is a bit cold in the midst of winter).
I am grateful for a forest full of fun (and fungi) where I have spent thousands of hours exploring.
I am grateful for my beloved and wonderful fiancée, who has the patience of a saint!
I am grateful for my family – you may be hundreds of miles away, but you are always there!
I am grateful for my friends, new and old. A special thank-you to Facebook for re-acquainting me with old ones and for giving me new ones.
I am grateful for my cats, every single one of them. Especially when they warm my toes at night.

I am grateful for a gazillion things. Those who know me, know that I could just as easily have written a “Why I hate …” on all these elements. What’s the point? Being grateful for what you have, makes life so much easier – and more pleasant – for me and those I interact with.

So, most of all:

I am grateful that I can see the positive aspects of just about everything. Or, at least I try to!