Category Archives: Rollick

“There are only so many times the bag labeled ‘Priority’ can go around before you decide it is mislabeled.”

It wasn’t until he heard and fully decoded the word ‘Airbus’ that he could put words to why he disliked air travel so much.

Airplanes were very much like buses. You would sit in an uncomfortable chair for hours at a time, there would be constant vibrations and noise, and your chair would move unpredictably with the terrain.

But, as a way of seeing the world before you retired, planes were still essential. The only other real option in his price range was a sailboat, and he’d never liked sailing. In theory, it seemed like a great idea. Lots of fun calculations about wind speed, wind direction, sail orientation, and current direction. Lots of fun words like tacking, jibs, and mizzenmast.

The worst part was that he had to wear a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. At least he got to wear sunglasses.

“Attention all passengers, we are preparing for descent into Tokyo. Please return to your seat and restore your tray tables and seats to their upright positions.”

The plane landed. Disembarking was always such a trial. You could see the tarmac through the window, and you *knew* there were multiple ways out of the aircraft. For someone who knew every exit out of a building (and used each of them, for practice), being funneled out the front was galling.

As they left the plane and moved down the corridor, he took advantage of his costume to push forward through the crowd. He was pretty sure he hadn’t been followed to the airport, but someone could have sliced his fake ID and been ready to swap suitcases before he got there. He was more than able to operate with just the clothes on his back, but he would feel far more comfortable with the shoes made from gum in his checked luggage.

But he needn’t have worried. He reached the baggage carousel, but it had not even started moving yet. The next one over was carrying one lonely bag with a pink tag, around and around. Squinting, he could see that the pink tag said ‘Priority’. The bag continued to go around. Around and around.

An alarm! ‘His’ carousel was starting up! But no suitcases were coming out yet. His gaze wandered back to the lonely ‘Priority’ bag on its endless quest. He couldn’t stop the unbidden thought: “There are only so many times the bag labeled ‘Priority’ can go around before you decide it is mislabeled.”

Back to his carousel, suitcases were starting to emerge. There his was! And it had the monofilament string around it, still intact. He’d still need to check, but that was a good sign. Grabbing it, he made his way towards customs.

Planning a Novel I: Basic Components

Those who have been following this blog for a while may be aware that I’ve been[1] putting together pieces of a novel.

So far, we know that the story mostly seems to be being told from the perspective of ‘Rollick’, a mostly retired ‘corp investigator’. The other main character (so far) seems to be a mysterious woman who Rollick knows from previous investigations. They seem to be on the trail of the ‘White Rose’, a mysterious killer or thief who leaves a parsnip carved into the shape of a rose at the scene of the crime.

It seems that some sort of bracer had been stolen, but the larger issue is likely econo-political, with the possible building of a direct rail link from Japan to the mainland.

Rollick’s motivations are pretty clear. He wants to get to the bottom of this case. He may suspect (or have been told off-screen) that his ‘corp investigator’ background would come in handy.

The mysterious woman seems to enjoy puzzles, which makes sense given her career as an investigator of note.

The ‘White Rose’ is a bit of an enigma. Motivation unknown at this time.

Genre is kind of futuristic ‘film noir’. Location is Rollick’s office and Japan (so far). ‘Transparent Plas-crete’ and ‘shaped charges’ are an indication of the technology level, but may be restricted to government usage.

Known power groups seem to be Japan, France, and the ‘Eastern Bloc’. (Rollick was a corp investigator for the Bloc, it is unknown whether that is the ‘Eastern Bloc’, but seems likely.)

Protagonist seems to be Rollick, Antagonist the ‘White Rose’.

Of the ‘Everyman/Anti-hero/Hero’ scale, Rollick seems to be (in the tradition of hard-boiled film noir) a hero verging on anti-hero. There’s no specific evidence of bravery or selflessness, but his special power is likely investigations[2].

Next up, I’ll be looking at (also from Ty Templeton):

What is normal?

What changes?

What is the result?

[1]Veeery sloooowly…

[2]We had the privilege of taking Ty Templeton’s ‘Comic Book Boot Camp: Introduction to Comics’ a few years ago, and Ty talked about the various types of heroes. I believe you can find some of this here:

Bracer, Embrasure

The embrasure sat empty. For a split second, a figure flashed through it, then was gone. The figure crept along the parapet. The figure was dressed in a dark grey, all the better to blend in. The figure disappeared through a doorway into the tower.

A staircase. A figure climbing halfway down the staircase, then sliding off the side and climbing down the wall inside the tower. Footsteps. A light bobbing. The figure froze. The light passed. “…are the puffins doing today?” “I only saw a few of them, but they seemed to be…”

The figure crept down the corridor, placing each foot carefully. The figure moved towards a door near the end of the hallway. Electronic sounds, rustling and mechanical sounds as the figure crouches by the door. A ‘click’. The door opens. The figure waits. And waits. The figure enters the door, closing it softly behind.

A display case is illuminated in the middle of the room. A bracer is illuminated within. The figure pulls a strangely shaped item out of a satchel. The figure applies the item to the display case.

Seven beeps and a ‘click’ at the door. The figure whirls and crouches to the side. “Allo? Mais c’est quoi ca?” The new figure enters the room and reaches towards the object attached to the display case.

An explosion. A body hitting the floor. Alarms sounding. The figure darts to the display case which now has a large hole in it. The figure grabs the bracer and places it in the satchel. The figure runs to the door, pausing at it for a second, as if listening, then slips out.


You may be interested in reading other story fragments in this category:


Rollick was wondering if she was trying to distract him. Well, more than she usually distracted him. His eyes traveled down. There was something about her shoes, too…

“A direct line from Russia to Japan? Is that actually finally happening?”

“Well, it’s more of a direct line from Japan to Russia, and that’s part of the problem…There are powerful forces on both sides of this. You have the xenophobic forces…”


“…Still, who want no truck with foreigners on their soil.”

“Do they not understand planes and ferries?”

“Logic has never been their strong point. Since the start of the second lost decade, they’ve been gaining power, even more so than usual.”

“It’s always island nations that have the luxury of ignoring the rest of the world.”

“Well, them and the Americans. But anyways, what we need to do is figure out what side the ambassador was on, and/or who she was really working for, ”

“And who she was talking to on the Japanese side.” Finished Rollick.

“Exactly. I’m going to start my information gathering on the ‘net. You start gumshoeing with either the French or the Japanese side. Your choice.”


“But seriously, what else did you notice about the crime scene?”

“The techs are the most professional looking ones I’ve ever seen?”

“No, about the area around the body.”

“Well, the blast had to be done by a professional. That kind of shaped charge is difficult to design, and is generally a one-off. Any mistake, and this whole room would be rubble.”

“So, who does that mean? Why would a professional get involved in this? Oh wait, that’s my question to answer.”

“Also, there’s something bothering me about the shard pattern, but I can’t put my finger on it. Make sure they do a path report on the parsnip rose, too.”

“Sure, sure. But I wanted to ask you. How much do you know about Sakhalin?”

“The Russian island between Kamchatka and Hokkaido?”

“Saying those words around here could get you killed,” she said with another of her smiles.

“So, what about Sakhalin?”

“What would it mean if there was a direct rail link between Russia and Japan?”


It could be Philippe, but he was far too much of a French Nationaliste, unless he could be persuaded that the ambassador was an existential thread to La Belle France. There were a couple of groups of Navy Seals, but motives were difficult to find there, too. All the other options were less likely. They were all retired, or would never get involved in something political like this.

But then again, he was, wasn’t he?

Rollick knelt down by the outline of where the body used to be, and saw the parsnip rose next to it. The petals looked somehow sharper than you would expect for a vegetable, and there was some kind of bluish tinge to it. As Rollick was looking closer to investigate, he heard a ‘crunch’ behind him.

“So, found anything yet?”

It was her again. Rollick turned to face her, seeing the smile she always seemed to have, that said that she knew far more than you about what was going on, and that she would take great pleasure in rubbing that in your face whenever you thought you had just figured it out. Wheels within wheels indeed. Rollick decided not to rise to the bait.

“I’m curious to know what the path report will say.”

“Probably that he died of a gunshot wound. What else could it possibly be?” she said with a smile.

“Well, I’m curious to know what the parsnip was doing here, right beside the body.”

“What? That? That’s just a calling card. I need to fill you in on why the ambassador was here. She was negotiating a large construction contract with the Japanese government.”


“What? You’re surprised that the French Government would send a female ambassador to Japan?”

Display Case

Rollick knelt down to check out the shards of transparent plas-crete embedded in the floor. They were mostly about 1-3 centimeters in length, half a centimeter across, and pointy to the touch. [Ouch!] Really pointy. Rollick sucked on the wound on the tip of his finger. Plas-crete, especially transparent plas-crete always sharded when it blew. The question was, what made it blow? A material that was strong enough for pressurized steam tubes in a fusion reactor wouldn’t blow for anything less than a professionally shaped C6 charge. And that narrowed down the list to a handful of people, all of whom Rollick knew, or knew of, and governments. Wonderful. It was that kind of day.

Crime Scene

Rollick appraised the scene. It was like your standard murder scene, except that all the techs were immaculately dressed in classic suits and wearing white gloves. Rollick bowed to the lead crime scene tech, and asked him what he had so far.
“Rollick-san, you can see here that the apparent cause of death is this gunshot wound in his neck. However, you can see that there is very little blood on the carpet here, suggesting that he was already dead when he was shot.”
“So, what do you think happened?”
“Well, we’ll have to wait for the pathology report, but in the meantime, we’re combing the room for clues. I would recommend you take a look at the display case over there. You might find it interesting.”
“Arigato gozaimasu.”
Rollick bowed and headed over to the display case.


Rollick always experienced a strange thrill the first time encountering a corpse.

It was the feeling that something monumental had just happened here, a great transformation. What before was a living and breathing human being was now just a pile of rapidly decomposing spare parts. The only thing that rivaled it was the sheer joy of creating life, but that was all too fleeting, and took too long to grow to really have the same impact. It made him want to finally get that tattoo on the back of his neck of an old-style UPC of 70 kilos of lean beef.


It’s the scent that reaches deep into your medulla oblongata and makes your heart skip a beat. The scent that would launch your trireme, if you could somehow haul it down Yonge Street. The scent that was emerging from the crime scene.

Rollick smelled her as he was walking into the crime scene.

“What are *you* doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you. What’s a retired corp investigator doing on the diplomatic beat? Shouldn’t you be doing a Bloc consult?”
“They said that there was a parsnip sculpted into a rose at the scene.”
“Oh, that. It looked like it came out of that trophy case, there. It was sitting on its side. The ambassador was known to collect Bloc artifacts.”
“So, you don’t think the White Rose was involved?”
“He’s never gone this far afield before. We think it’s a copycat or a red herring. Besides, what would the French Ambassador to Japan be up to that would interest the Eastern Bloc?”
“Right. So, why are *you* here.”
“You wouldn’t believe that I heard you were coming and rushed breathlessly to meet you?”
“Not unless I had something you wanted.”
“I was actually in Shinjuku on vacation, and I was the closest thing the Committee had to a criminal psychology expert nearby, so they sent me. It goes without saying that this is above top secret. They didn’t want any flights being recorded.”
“But we should be able to hide that from most organizations. You think Them is involved?
“We can’t know for sure.”
“Fair enough. Let me take a look.”
“You’ll be impressed. It was very professionally done, with an interesting twist.”

Rollick bent down to look at the body on the floor.