“The Thin Grey Line” (by Alexandria Blaelock)

Alexandria Blaelock is the author of several self-help books applying business techniques to personal matters (drawing from her career as a project manager) and short fiction that appears in Pulphouse Fiction as well as EQMM. Her debut professional fiction publication, “The Perfume of Peaches,” appears in our September/October 2020 issue’s Department of First Stories (on sale next week). As you’ll learn in this thought-provoking post, the author lives in Australia. We think this entry will help you remain intrigued by your everyday life and the mysteries therein!—Janet Hutchings

Life is a mystery.

I don’t mean that whole divine creation v random evolution thing. Though I suppose that influences your perceptions of good and evil.

I mean why you in particular, and why now?

Why you when so many of your proto-siblings didn’t survive gestation?

When you look back on your life, you can see how this seemingly random event links that happenstance, leading to the other incident.

A life-long chain of causality.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way—you can’t see more than a step or two into the future.

Unless you’re a chess Grandmaster, and that’s only because everyone follows the rules.

And so it is for me, though when I look back, my path is knee-deep in mysterious circumstances.

Like what made my parents leave the U.K.? Why, of all places, did they choose Australia? Why not Canada or New Zealand? Though those countries were overrun with blood-kin of one kind or another, so that might be the solution of that particular mystery.

What about that time I really hated my mother, and showing an utter lack of imagination, went to bed wishing desperately to wake up as someone else’s daughter?

What if I really did? What if I did it so well, I have no recollection of not being the me I became? What happened to the me I replaced? Where did she end up?

And why for goodness sake the daughter? Why not the much-loved family dog who had her own furniture and toys and no one who ever stayed angry with her for days on end?

My childhood home was the kind where the TV didn’t go on until after dinner, until we children had washed and dried the dishes.

Quietly, if you please.

And then Dad would flick the switch. My brother and I would take our positions on the floor, chins cupped in our hands, eyes glued to the tiny screen.

Learning about good and evil while devouring Matlock Police (Jones & Stapleton, 1971-1976) and a year or two later, Cop Shop (Stapleton, 1977-1984).

Or episodes of Whodunnit: The Murder Mystery Game Show, (Reed et al. 1972-1978) of which I was very proud of being the first of the family and usually the panelists to figure it out.

Or as we grew older, videos of Taggart, (Chandler, 1983-2010) recorded on my aunt’s home TV and posted from Glasgow to give Dad a taste of his home turf.

A show so loved, that it continued for sixteen or so years after the lead actor (and title character) died.

For years we’d wait for it, then shout-along, “there’s been a murrrrrdah!”

And play spot the recurring actor (some the same character, some not)—a big well done to Alex Norton who topped the pack as an early suspect and a late DCI.

When Dad wasn’t home, and we weren’t allowed to watch tv, there were always books.

English classics like Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Because who doesn’t want to spend the school holidays camping out in the countryside or the Cornish seaside having adventures and solving mysteries involving smugglers, kidnappers and robbers?

Certainly, I did. Enough to watch Marzuk’s 2018 Fünf Freunde und das Tal der Dinosaurier (The Famous Five and the Valley of Dinosaurs).

You might grow up, but you’re always a child at heart.

From there, growing into Blyton’s Secret Seven, term-time crime mysteries for older children; wrongful imprisonment, grand larceny, and stolen dogs!

Then taking up with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

But the thing about these villains, is they’re all a bit dumb. And that’s another mystery.

How dumb do you have to be to get caught by a bunch of kids?

“Meddling kids,” according to another childhood staple.

Which brings us to yet another mystery. How is it possible that Casey Kasem, the smooth-tongued voice of American Top 40, was also the voice of “Shaggy” in Hanna-Barbera’s 1969 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!.

And who’s the better Shaggy—him or Matthew Lillard?

I suppose another meddling kid was Wonder Woman (alter ego Diana Prince). Brought to life by William Marston through DC Comics to fight the Axis military powers during the Second World War. Though after a point, she lost her relevance and reality.

Then again, it is hard to take a crime-fighting woman in heeled boots and a bathing suit seriously. It’s no surprise she ended up making coffee and taking the minutes for the Justice Society of America.

Perhaps she would have been better off following Peter O’Donnell and Jim Holdaway’s 1963 Modesty Blaise into a life of crime, come espionage, come crime-fighting.

Warmer clothing would’ve been one benefit, along with a nice London pad and a villa in Morocco for vacations.

Aren’t the women who step outside societal norms so much more interesting than those who don’t?

I, for one, would rather be a nemesis than a superhero.

Though given we’re talking about fiction, I suppose I’d have to be a theoretically conquerable supervillain. Ultimately conquered by some chick in a bikini because I couldn’t conquer my ego.

Then again, why not a Machiavellian criminal mastermind like Moriarty? I could drag my Holmes down a waterfall and meet my doom theoretically unconquered.

And there’s another mystery—Sherlock’s Andrew Scott (Gatiss & Moffat, 2010-2017) or Elementary’s Natalie Dormer (Ferland et al. 2012-2019)?

But I wonder. Why should I dumb myself down to fit in, when I could use my insanity-inducing tragic childhood to stand out instead?

How odd is it that your life can change in an instant?

Like the time I hit my then-boyfriend over the head with a frypan?

Why did I lose control?

Why did he step into the blow instead of back and away?

Why didn’t he break up with me, let alone marry me?

And after surviving all that, why weren’t we enough for each other? Why did we let that marriage crawl whimpering away to die alone in a corner?

There’s an accidental death story there. A suicide. A cold-blooded murder. Twist the facts a little, and a jealous ex-lover exits as the poor faithful girlfriend enters to take the fall.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Of asking the right questions. And, to an extent, getting the wrong answers.

Toni Jordan (Australian fiction writer) once told me she likes to include sex in all her stories because sex is a meaningful driver of people’s lives. Something we all think about, something most of us do.

I like to add a little crime to mine because life is bittersweet. We all walk a thin line between good and evil—a thin grey line between the dark and the light.

We all do bad things with the best of intentions.

We lie and tell our friends they look beautiful (no, your bum does not look big in that dress).

And we do good things that turn out bad (we let our friends fall in love with people we know will probably hurt them).

And we never think of those tiny steps as criss-crossing the line.

Or what exactly these mysterious concepts of light and darkness really are.

Is it always right to save lives? Is it always wrong to take them?

Is more money always more important?

No, no, and no.

Sometimes, whether you’re a meddling kid or a dumb villain, nothing is the best thing to say or do.

And yet, in my writing, I’ve killed more people than I’ve saved, and each death brings a silver lining for someone. Even if that’s just you, dear reader.

Death is never far away, and you are someone’s nemesis whether you know it or not. Enjoy your beautiful clothes, try the exotic cocktails, and take glamorous vacations, because one day they, and you, will come to an end.

In the meantime, I have other, more important mysteries to solve. Like why my software isn’t doing what it’s supposed to.

And why my computer freezes when I’m writing/reading/watching the best bits.

And the ongoing mystery that still haunts me today—who the hell drank my Campari?

This entry was posted in Guest, Novels, Police Procedurals, Pop Culture, Writers, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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