2007/11, November Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Older veteran listens to bass drum
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When Rod Scales was a young boy, his uncle Kevin Lynch would visit whenever the circus stopped in Miami. Kevin had been a problem as a young teen and hidden one day from the police. When he ducked his head back, his face was burned on the left side by a steam pipe. That left a long dark vertical mark on his face.

Before Rod was born, Kevin had spent the second world war working in the laundry at Fort Bragg in California. When Rod was in the 6th grade, his uncle Kevin first began to tell a different story.

Beginning that year, Kevin claimed he was one of the test soldiers in the A-bomb tests and was burned because there was a crack in the concrete wall that was supposed to protect him.

As time passed, Rod would say, "I believe you uncle Kevin."

Uncle Kevin would squeeze Rod's young arm so hard it hurt and said, "You're my favorite Nephew."

Rod always considered this odd because he was an only child and because his mother had only the one sibling, Kevin. Later, when it became clear his mother would have no more children, the sentiment became comic.

In 2007, Rod Scales attended the Veterans Day Parade because he knew he could always find his uncle Kevin in it. He didn't know where uncle Kevin spent the other parts of his life, and Rod never bothered to find out.

The truck ambled slowly past and Rod spotted his uncle.

"Uncle Kevin," Rod called. He walked up to the tailgate.

"Hi Flying, or is it Rod now?"

"It's been Rod for forty years."

"Good to see you."

Rod pulled a sheet of paper from his courier bag and handed it to Kevin. "Here," he said. "This proves you were right all along."

The paper was a copy of a "top secret" document. Words on it were blacked out. But there in the center of the page the words were clear. Only four men were injured in the A-Bomb test and, of the names listed, there was Kevin Lynch plain as day. Following his name was the statement, "burned in a vertical line along the left side of his face."

"How did you find this?" asked his uncle.

"You know. Freedom of Information Act. You send in a letter and Bob's your uncle."

Kevin smiled broadly and showed the paper to the man next to him. That man glanced at the paper and merely grunted.

Kevin reached out and squeezed Rod's arm. The squeeze felt to Rod like the lightest of a caress. A mere whisper with no sign of his earlier strength.

"Rod," said his uncle. "You're my favorite nephew."

"Thanks," Rod said, pleased his uncle liked the fake document. "And a happy Veterans Day to you."

(2007) Veterans' Day Parade, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Curved windows overlook Henry at Sanchez
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Rod Scales was growing old and forgetful. He lived alone in San Francisco and had become a man of habits. He awoke every morning to the same ritual, ablutions while coffee brewed, then coffee to finally awaken at his bay window.

Rod had once been a private eye but was now retired. He missed some aspects of the old job, and was glad to be well away from others. He stood that morning, dressed as usual in sweat pants, a sweat shirt and black tennis shoes. He sipped quietly from his "Hey Amigo" cup and peered out at the world.

Rod looked down and saw a thing unusual on the sidewalk one floor below. A small brass disk appeared to be laying there. Rod rubbed his scruffy beard and considered what he might do. With a grunt that indicated he was fed up with his own curiosity, Rod set down the cup and left his warm apartment.

The disk turned out to actually be a survey marker, or something similar, set firmly into the sidewalk. Rod knelt to look close. He saw the number 12 engraved clearly on the marker. He stood and looked all four ways up and down the four streets that formed his intersection. Nothing.

Later that morning, Rod was out for his daily "constitutional." Several blocks from his flat he came upon a second marker. It had the number 22 on it. Once again Rod felt angry with himself at his growing curiosity. But, alas, curiosity won.

Rod spent the rest of the afternoon systematically crisscrossing the city, slowly but inevitably finding all the markers. He found what he believed was the last just as the sun was setting.

That night, Rod was exhausted. He ate dinner without paying attention to the food. Then he pulled out an old MUNI map of the city and carefully noted each marker on it. The pattern formed looked interesting. Rod found a felt marker and used it to connect the dots formed by the numbers on the map. The result was the capital letter "E".

Rod stared at the map for what he felt must have been an hour. "Get your butt in gear," he told himself at last.

Rod took the map to his computer, and old MAC, and googled for what he may have found. After a few false searches, he finally found a web page that showed one of the markers, sweet as you please, four times life-size on the screen.

Below that was a series of blanks to fill out. "Show the two words associated with each number," directed the first set of blanks. Rod figured this was the names of the two streets forming each intersection.

Then it asked him to enter the secret phrase. Rod typed in the capital letter "E". He concluded with his name and phone number and then clicked on "Submit."

A week later, Rod awoke and set coffee to brew as usual. After his ablutions he took his coffee to the window and looked out. Below him lay the streets of Paris. Paris was his first choice to travel after winning a million bucks in the street marker contest.

Rod glanced down at the sidewalk a floor below and noticed a red piece of metal or plastic nailed to a tree. He was sure it hadn't been there the day before. Rod wanted to be angry with himself at his growing curiosity, but he no longer had the heart. Instead he felt excited. "A new mystery," he said aloud, and began to plan his day.

(2007) Sanchez above Market, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Friday, November 2, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Peace dangles in colored glass
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Rod Scales, private eye, had been hired to track down and recover a stained glass peace symbol of sentimental value only. It had been taken along with other but valuable jewelry during a daylight burglary the week before. Rod carried an 8x10 colored photograph of the lost peace symbol that showed only one face.

"Yea, I made all these myself," said the stall vendor. "I make 'em in my garage. Hand made, is what they are. Hand made."

Rod showed the vendor the photograph. "If you made all these, then why does this one...." Rod fingered one on the near side of the rack. "Have a crack that exactly matches the one in the photo?"

"Lemme see that," the vendor said and grabbed the photo from Rod's hands.

The vendor pulled a magnifying glass from a drawer in his cart. Then he carefully went over the photo. "Ha!" the vendor said at last. "Look here on the edge."

Rod took the magnifying glass from the vendor. He hefted it and said aloud, "I should get me one of these."

"Would ya look at the picture, already."

Rod examined it and was dumbfounded to find a date that was twenty years in the future.

"Y'see?" the vendor said. "I don't date my stuff. So this picture must be of somebody else's stuff."

Rod apologized to the vendor. Somewhat embarrassed, Rod slipped away and caught a cab. He looked at the picture again, but couldn't find a date without a magnifying glass. But he remembered the date, and wondered why someone would want to future-date a peace symbol. Future-dating a check made sense, after all pay days for some might be irregular.

"You sure about that address," the cab driver said, breaking Rod's concentration.

Rod looked up and found the cab stopped near a vacant lot. Rod pulled out the invoice and check he'd been given and looked at the address. "Yes, that's the right address," he said.

"Well look, mister. There ain't nothing here."

Rod told the cab driver to wait, then got out and walked to the center of the lot. He looked back at the street and recognized the view as the same view he'd had just that morning when he left with check and invoice in hand.

Rod looked at the check and invoice again. The both bore dates twenty years in the future. Rod got goose bumps. "Well," he said, "I guess payday for this job will be mighty irregular indeed."

Twenty years later, Rod pulled that check out of his bad-check drawer when the year and date on it finally rolled around. The check cleared the bank.

"Well," said Rod to himself. "I guess I'd better start looking for that missing peace symbol again."

(2007) Anti War Protest, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Saturday, November 3, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Mobility challenged bicycle rests against fence
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Rod Scales, ace private eye, was born with the name Flying Velochki. His mother performed a high wire act in the circus, and his father was a vagabond who drifted briefly through his mother's life.

His mother named him Flying because that's what she did every day on the high wire. She gave him his father's last name, in the hope that he might someday find that scum of a man and throttle him for her.

Flying never liked his name, so tried on different names as he tried on different vocations. Once, when the circus traveled to Ireland, Flying found himself wanting to become a pastry chef. He called himself Popo McChef, Popo after a clown in the circus that taught him how to bake.

Flying, using the name Popo, would bake a dozen or so cupcakes in the circus kitchen and bicycle them to the local hospital to give to the poor. On the last day the circus was to be in Dublin, Popo emerged from the hospital and found the rear tire of his bike missing, he presumed stolen.

Amid the leaves on the sidewalk under his bike, Popo found a wrench, the one used, he thought, to undo the bolts holding the tires. Etched in the handle of the wrench was the name "Danny's Tires."

Popo picked up his bike and carried it on his shoulder. He was young and quite strong from all his circus work, so the weight of the bike didn't phase him at all. Near the canal he happened on a store owner sweeping the sidewalk.

"Pardon me sir," Popo said. "Would you know of a place called Danny's Tires?"

"Why yes, me laddie." The store owner stood up straight and arched to relieve the stress in his back. "Cross the canal then go right through the tunnel under the tracks. You'll find Danny's Tires just beyond on the right. Ask for Danny. If his scum of a son is there, just leave and come back later." The shop owner laughed.

Popo thanked the shop owner and found the tire shop closer than he expected. He set his bike by a building just around the corner then went into the shop.

"Are you Danny?" asked Popo.

"That I be. A how can I help yee?"

Popo showed Danny the wrench. "I found this on the sidewalk by the hospital."

"That's me spanner all right. What was it doing way out there?"

Popo handed Danny the wrench. "I found it under my bike after someone stole my back bike tire."

Danny appeared to turn red. "That damn boy! Damn him all to hell."

Popo took a step back.

"Not you," Danny said. "I'm furious at that no good son of mine."

"But all you have is a wrench and my word," Popo said. "That proves nothing."

"Come with me," Danny said and led the way to a back room. "Here is a bike my son has been building. He told me it was all from found parts." Danny pointed at the bike. "Is that your tire?"

"It sure is," Popo said.

Danny picked up the bike and handed it to Popo. "It's yours. Take it. It serves that crummy son of mine good that he lose it."

Popo thanked Danny and peddled the new bike back to the circus.

That night, Popo weighed the day's events in his head. His mom leaned her head through the door and asked, "What you doing."


"That's nice," his mother said and vanished into the front of the trailer again.

Solving a mystery, like the mystery of his bike seemed like a good thing to Popo. "Maybe I should be a detective," he said. "Yeah, that's it. A detective."

Popo mulled over new names and finally settled on the name Rod Scales. "A good name for a detective," he said aloud to himself. "Rod because someday I'll carry a gun. And Scales because of the scales of justice."

That evening, as Rod Scales fell asleep, he dreamt of a new life of mystery and adventure that spanned the world. An then he awoke the next morning, and he knew, at last, the direction his life would take. Rod Scales was born.

(2007) Dublin, Ireland   •  Photo Posted Sunday, November 4, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Man about to dine in a cockeyed world ....
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Rod Scales sat in a comfortable sofa, part of a set all covered in the same green fabric with a clear plastic outer cover. He sipped a cup of overly sweetened iced, Lipton tea from a tall thin glass.

"Just begin at the beginning," he told the couple sitting across from him. It was their house and he was there to solve a case.

"I'll go first," the wife, Sally Harrison said. "I was just fixing Tony his morning coffee and eggs."

"At the camp ground," interjected her husband, Tony. "You forgot to tell him it was at Capps Crossing campground."

Sally cleared her throat and began again. "We woke up the next morning at Capps Campground," Sally squeezed her husband's knee as she said "Capps."

"There was an explosion the night before, don't forget to tell him about the explosion."

"We woke up the next morning, groggy and needing coffee because an explosion woke us up in the middle of the night. There, you happy Tony?"

Tony leapt right in, "The picnic table had been flipped over and there was dirt on everything."

"Anyway I was fixing breakfast while Tony went to flip the table over the right way, when I noticed Tony was gone. I thought he was playing a trick on me but he never turned up all day. I finally called the sheriff and made a report then came home. A week later Tony walks in the front door as if he hadn't been gone at all and accuses me of abandoning him."

"My turn," Tony said. "I lifted and pushed the picnic table over and got it upright. I felt a twinge in my back so I thought I would sit down and wait for breakfast."

Tony stood, then continued, moving his arms for emphasis. "The second I sat on the bench I felt like I was being accelerated in a rocket. The entire forest appeared to tilt and bend around me. It scared me so bad I jumped up and ran away from the table."

"Pretty inventive," Sally said.

"When I calmed down I noticed that the camp was empty. The trailer and car were gone, as were all the other campers."

"This is why he claims I abandoned him."

"I hitched a ride and got home that same afternoon. No sooner did I open the front door than I saw Sally on the phone. She dropped the phone and ran up and hugged me. It turns out I had been gone for a week."

A few days later, Rod Scales made his way through a snow covered Capps Campground. He secured special permission to enter it after the first snow.

It only took him a few minutes to find the picnic table. Using his hands and a small spade, he cleared snow and dirt from around the bench were Tony claimed he had sat.

Under the bench Rod found a small patch of dirt that appeared to be swirling. Using the spade he cleared the swirling dirt to reveal a small round glowing object about the size of a head of a pin.

Rod touched the glowing point with his spade. The spade was yanked from his hand and vanished. A few seconds later the spade appeared out of thin air and landed on the dirt nearby.

Moving the spade through time appeared to have used up the glowing point. It faded and vanished. The swirling dirt became solid and the forest returned to normal.

Later, Rod mailed an invoice on which he'd written "Solved. The mystery was caused by time travel."

A week later he received a check signed by Sally. There was no note in the envelope, just a check. Sally, he expected, didn't believe him any more than she believed her husband.

(2007) Capps Campground, California   •  Photo Posted Monday, November 5, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Sees candy reflected in plastic over window
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Rod Scales ace detective didn't think of himself as tall, but standing there by the Primrose sisters he felt like a towering redwood. Bess and her sister Rose barely stood up to Rod's chest.

The sisters stood together in the back room of their candy store. Dour looks on their faces, they stared at the floor covered in a pool of red.

Rod noticed that the red liquid reflected the lights overhead and reminded him of the outline of the store's front. "What happened?" he asked.

"We don't know," Bess said.

"Oh, whatever will we do," Rose said.

Bess delicately picked up a label from the puddle. She wiped it with a rag and showed it to Rod. "This is a special strawberry filling from the foothills of the Himalayas. This one bottle cost us a thousand dollars."

Rose shook her head and moaned, "What are we to do? We were supposed to make strawberry-filled chocolate balls for the Chief of Police's retirement banquet tonight. But look. What a mess. How can we ever do that now?"

Bess picked up one of two chocolate balls and handed it to Rod. "These are our only two prototypes," Bess said. "Try it and you'll see why we are in such trouble."

Rod popped it into his mouth. Now Rod always considered himself tone deaf but, upon first taste of the strawberry filling, his head filled with the most beautiful music. His taste buds exploded in a symphony, all the musicians standing for a stupendous crescendo.

"Good?" asked Bess.

Rod smiled and nodded weakly. He blinked and cleared his head. "Where was the bottle before it fell?" he asked at last.

Bess pointed to shelves against the back wall, one of which was tipped. "There. I put it there just before I left."

Rod drew shapes in the air like he was trying to visualize something. The he snapped his fingers and said, "I'll be right back." And with that, Rod rushed outside.

The sisters looked at each other and shrugged. "I guess we'd better clean this mess up," Bess said.

A few minutes later Rod called "Bess, Rose," as he came through the front of the store back into the back room. "I have someone you have to meet."

The sisters stood and wiped their hands with wet rags then dried them on their aprons.

"Rose. Bess. I'd like you to meet the Chief of Police."

Rose was flustered, "But, but."

Bess, however, kept herself together. "Pleased to meet you," she said and shook his hand.

The Chief of Police was a man of medium height and heavy weight. He smiled broadly and said, "I understand you had a little problem here."

"A little problem?" Rose said.

"Now shush, dear," Bess said and patted her on the arm.

"Turns out," Rod began. "That a couple burglars blew up the bank safe last night. That safe is just below and behind your back wall. It must have been the explosion that knocked the bottle down."

"The night janitors," the Chief of Police continued. "Saw something red drip down into their closet directly below and thought it was blood. They called 911 and when the first cruiser pulled up, officers caught the bank robbers red handed."

Rose stood silently her mouth slightly open.

"Wow," Bess said.

Rod leaned down to Bess and whispered, "You have one of those fine prototypes left, and here is the Chief of Police standing right here."

Bess caught on immediately. She gently picked up the last prototype and offered it to the Chief of Police. "This is the last prototype of the candy we were going to supply for your banquet tonight."

The Chief of Police popped the candy into his mouth.

The look that overcame Chief of Police's face so embarrassed Rod that he had to look away.

"By jove," the Chief of Police said. And for a man of his dimensions that expression somehow fit. He bent and hugged both the sisters. "Don't worry about lost candy," he said. "You'll both be my guests at the banquet tonight. And," he winked at them. "I won't be surprised if there isn't some reward for you from the bank."

That night, Rod pulled his travel suitcase down from the top shelf in his front closet. With glue he affixed the label from the broken bottle of strawberry sauce to the suitcase. He stuck it just below the sticker from Bob's Bottle Castle in Kansas. "Now that," he said to himself, remembering the Kansas trip, "was one hum dinger of a case."

(2007) Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A slice of heaven in San Francisco
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Rod Scales had heard that the lower end of Belgrave Avenue in San Francisco was considered by some to be a little slice of heaven. Rod reached the top of Stanyan street almost totally out of breath from the long uphill walk from the trolley stop. The last block at the top had been steps rather than a sidewalk.

He bent over, placed his hands on his knees and recovered. He stood and looked right and saw an amazingly pretty little street. Belgrave was lined by cute houses, well kept with lavish gardens. The street ended at a "green area" over which towered tall eucalyptus trees.

Just inside the green area, Rod met his client, Olma Hubberd, an elderly woman dressed in corduroy pants, a man's work shirt, and a floral cloth hat.

Rod introduced himself then asked, "What exactly is the problem with the cats?"

Olma gestured at the green area behind her. She seemed stiff to Rod. Olma said, "They're missing. For two days now, I have not seen a single feral cat."

"Have you seen anything unusual? Any strangers or strange cars at odd hours?"

Olma shook her head. "Not a one. I'm a light sleeper and anything out of the ordinary would have awakened me."

Rod thanked Olma and spent an hour exploring the green area. He didn't see a single feral cat.

Later that afternoon, Rod adopted a rough looking cat from the animal shelter. He carried it in a cat carrier.

At midnight, Rod drove to Belgrave Avenue and parked quietly. Then he snuck as quietly as he could into the green area. There, he freed the adopted cat from the cage.

The cat ran a few feet away then just sat down and started to meow. Rod took this as his cue and hid in the bushes.

Rod didn't have to wait long. Olma appeared on her porch. She was dressed in a long nightgown. She didn't turn on any lights. Instead she walked out to the street and into the green area.

Rod noticed her eyes were open but seemed to be unfocused. He guessed she was sleep walking.

Olma picked up the cat and carried it with her back into her house.

When the door closed, Rod ran up to her door and listened.

He heard another door open somewhere inside, the meowing of many cats, the sound of that door closing then silence.

The next morning Rod met Olma at her door.

"Good morning," Olma said. "Any luck finding the cats?"

"Does your house have a basement or a large unused room?"

"I have a basement, but heaven knows, I never go down there."

"I wonder if I might take a peek at that basement?"

"I can't imagine why," Olma said but lead the way back into her house. "Here it is."

Rod opened the door and was met by stairs leading down into a brightly lit basement. The stairs and room visible at the bottom were full of cats.

An amazed Olma followed Rod down into the basement. They found sofas and blankets laid out with water and plenty of food.

"How did they get here?" Olma asked.

Rod described to her what he had witnessed the night before.

"Me? Sleep walk? No, that can't be true."

"Here," Rod stooped and swept up the cat he adopted from the shelter. "This is the cat I let loose last night. See here, it still has the shelter collar on it."

Olma hung her head. "What will I tell the neighbors?"

Rod stopped by the pet store on his way home. He bought cat food, bowls for water and food, and cat litter. At home he let the cat free to wander his house.

"What shall I name you?"

The cat looked at him and meowed.

(2007) Tank Hill Park, San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007 external link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Spider absent
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Wayne Jeffers worked for Texas Instruments which provided him with a Wyse terminal and modem for use at his home. As Wayne typed, glowing capital letters appeared on his screen. The letters appeared slower than he typed so he had to pause every once in a while to wait for the screen to catch up.

"So Rod," Wayne said over his shoulder to Rod Scales private eye. "Ever seen a terminal like this before?"

"I thought about buying an Apple I, but what would I ever use it for?"

"Well," Wayne began as if he was weighing his words. "Rod, the reason I asked you to visit was to show you this new thing we're calling the world wide web."

"Web like spider web, or web like a web of lies?"

"The former. Look at this." Wayne typed a command. There was a pause then text scrolled up painting in characters a primitive picture of the Star Trek Enterprise from the TV show. "That picture came from U.C. Berkeley. Pretty cool huh?"

Rod couldn't quite grasp the point. "Hmmm," was all he could say.

"There's thirteen sites --er, machines-- out there now. Pretty soon there will be a hundred. Why in twenty years, they may someday be a thousand or more sites."

Rod left Wayne's house a thousand dollars lighter. He liked to invest in his friend's ideas, even if he thought the ideas were far fetched. Who, he wondered, would ever need a program to search machines when all that the machines could do was to draw childish pictures?

At home, Rod fed his cat "Uncertain" and cleaned the cat box. He named the cat after attending a lecture by a physics professor at U.C. Berkeley.

His routine complete, Rod fixed a cup of tea. It was still summer, so he stepped out onto his front porch to relax. At the corner of his porch he spotted a spider web. Rod bent and gazed at the web.

"How could anyone," he mused aloud. "Ever think of something as modest as a spider web, as being something world wide?"

(2007) Belgrave above Stanyan, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Thursday, November 8, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Cowboy moseys down Shattuck Avenue
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Gerrold LeBoff, owner of The LeBoff Restaurant, telephoned Rod Scales. "Mr. Scales," he said. "On Sunday, I rode my horse in the How Berkeley Parade. When I returned to my restaurant afterward, I found the door unlocked but nothing missing."

"Who else has a key?"

"No one. I have the only key."

"Did you leave it unlocked?"

"Never. It is a ritual with me. My chef and I always are the last to leave and we leave together. I lock the door and he tests it."

Early that afternoon, Rod visited Gerrold at his restaurant before it opened. The LeBoff was well known in the Bay Area for its gourmet food. The restaurant was richly decorated with gold trimmed plates and expensive art. It was hard for Rod to imagine that nothing would be taken from an unlocked place such as this.

Rod was led back to the kitchen where he met Gerrold.

"A pleasure," Gerrold said and shook Rod's hand. "May I introduce my chef, Ben Hogshead."

Rod shook the Ben's and was surprised when Ben winked at him.

"Well," Gerrold said. "I have some business to attend to, so I will leave you with Ben for a brief while."

When they were alone, Ben took Rod by the arm and pulled him aside. "It's the pot."

Rod was unsure he had heard correctly. "A soup pot or smoking pot?"

Ben looked around to make sure they were still alone. "Brownies."

Rod took a step back and said, "Are you telling me Gerrold LeBoff ate pot brownies?"

Ben waved his hands, "Shh. Not so loud." He gestured for Rod to step closer again. "You see," Ben continued. "Gerrold's daughter gave Gerrold brownies for his birthday, but forgot to tell him they were special. And if you ever saw Gerrold eat, you could see why he could easily eat a whole tray of brownies."

Rod raised an eyebrow. "You're telling me that Gerrold was so stoned he didn't remember leaving the door unlocked."


Rod smiled an said, "That gives me an idea."

When Gerrold LeBoff returned, Rod asked for the key. He lead Gerrold and Ben to the front door and only partly turned the deadbolt with the key. He removed the key then asked Ben to shake the door.

Ben gave the door a quick tug and it appeared locked.

"Now watch," Rod said. He gently rattled the door until he heard the swinging deadbolt drop. "I used to leave myself a way back into my dorm when I was in College with a lock just like this. If not locked all the way, the swinging deadbolt can drop out."

Rod pulled the door open.

That night Ben telephoned Rod.

"I cannot thank you enough. You saved Gerrold's pride. And did I tell you, a reporter called? You may also have saved the reputation of this restaurant."

"That's my job," Rod said modestly.

"I insist. You must come to the restaurant. I will fix you the best meal you have ever eaten."

A week later, Rod was interviewing his next client. They sat at a table at the LeBoff.

And yes, it was the best meal Rod had ever eaten. And of all the spices in it, Rod's favorite was thanks.

(2007) How Berkeley Parade, Berkeley, California   •  Photo Posted Friday, November 9, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The neighborhood's public library
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Rod Scales lived briefly just off Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights. He liked the weather there because that part of San Francisco seemed most often to escape the cold fog.

Rod liked to spend Saturday mornings in the library, researching old news stories about California and its history. One particular such morning, Rod happened upon a story called "Bernal Heights mysterious toys." It seemed that people who walked their dogs on Bernal Hill, would find a new child's toy each morning on a bolder near the Hill's eastern edge. This went on, for several months, then stopped just as mysteriously. The source of the toys was never discovered.

Rod believed the old adage that the best way to catch a thief is with a thief. As a corollary, he therefore concluded the best way to catch a giver is to become a giver.

Beginning that very night, Rod set out every morning before dawn, at a different time and taking a different route each time. He would place a unique toy on a boulder at the easter edge of the hill, then sneak back home. Because of the nature of the toys he chose, he could easily tell if anyone were to switch toys on him.

A week later to the day, Rod heard over breakfast at Toni's Tradewinds Cafe, that a toy lion had been found that morning. Rod perked his ears when he heard this. He had placed a toy fish on the boulder, not a lion.

The next morning, Rod arose as usual a ways ahead of dawn. He snuck up the hill and placed a plastic star on the boulder. The he retired a short way to the cover of a clump of bushes, hid and waited.

Rod didn't have to wait long. A stooped gray visage in an overcoat approached the boulder and switched toys. Rod stood and walked toward the grey shape. "Good morning," he called in as cheerful a way as he could muster. "A find day for switching toys, isn't it."

The gray overcoat turned toward him and a face revealed itself in the moonlight. The visage said, "Is that you? Rod is that you?"

"Toni?" Rod asked. "You're the mysterious toy person."

Toni was in her eighties and stooped from all the years working in her cafe. She smiled brightly. "Yes, at last someone caught me."

"So, Toni, tell me why you put the toys here in the first place."

"Let's walk and talk so nobody catches us." Tony put her arm through Rod's for support and they proceeded down the hill.

"I have always tried to create surprises and mysteries," Toni began. "I once sprinkled spare change down the road each morning before dawn then went back later to find it all gone. I imagined the delight on some stranger's face when something like that is found. It must feel like finding a treasure."

"Why did you stop leaving the toys?"

"After the story came out in the paper I got scared. It wouldn't do for me to get caught. That would take all the magic out of it. You see that don't you?"

Rod squeezed her arm with his. "Of course I do."

"You started leaving toys but you left the wrong kind. The sort of things I liked to leave were intended for children. You seemed too random in what you left. I thought some wisenheimer was trying to steal my thunder."

They reached Rod's apartment building and said their goodbyes.

Years later, Rod returned to Cortland for an annual Bernal Heights Fiesta. He tried to find Toni's Tradewinds Cafe, but all that was left was the old sign above another business. Rod never found out what happened to Toni. He missed eating breakfast there and the friendly company. On a whim he bought a toy dragon at one of the fair booths.

Rod hiked up to the top of Bernal Hill and left the dragon on the same boulder that he and Toni had used. He stood and watched the boulder with the dragon on it, the City laid out below, the bay and Oakland beyond. He considered saying a few words in memory of Tony.

Just then a young boy ran up accompanied by his dog, a sleek whippet. "This you dragon?" the boy asked.

"Nope. I found it here just like you did."

"You think it would be okay if I took it?"

"I'm sure it would make the person who left it very happy."

"Thanks!" said the boy, a huge smile on his face.

"Don't thank me," Rod said. "Thank Toni."

But by then the boy was already running away, whooping with joy, followed, then lead, by his sleek dog.

(2007) Bernal Heights Neighborhood, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Saturday, November 10, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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How proud can a pride of fake lions be?
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Rod Scales Private Eye was in hot pursuit of a toy napper. He ducked under a tree branch and swerved left to avoid an amazingly large pile of dog poo. Rod was not in that great shape to begin with and all that running was beginning to wear him down.

Rod rounded the back of the Hall of Flowers and came to a dead end at a chain link fence. Rod grabbed the fence and glared through it. Not a sign of the young culprit. Rod bent over bracing himself arms stiff against his knees and struggled to regain his breath.

That afternoon Rod joined the YMCA to, as he said, "Get back into shape," although he was never before really in shape.

After a while the toy-napper case regressed to the background. Toys had stopped disappearing and the toy store owner stopped calling.

Rod took up swimming for reasons he could not explain, even to himself. He was struggling to swim half a lap. At the shallow end he dropped his feet to the bottom of the pool and walked to the end, winded.

Rod leaned back against the side of the pool and marveled how much longer the pool appeared when tired. The water lapped against the floats that created lanes. Rod noticed that all the floats were an identical blue. "Hmmm," Rod said as he always did when he got an idea.

Later that afternoon, Rod visited the toy store.

"Tell me," he said to the owner. "Was anything taken other than toy lions?"

"Nope, nothing but lions."

Rod rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "An artist friend of mine, once told me that if one could collect enough cheap items that were all the same, one could create art."


"So I think the thief was not a poor kid, but a regular kid creating an art project."

Rod spent the rest of the day visiting schools around the area. He had struck out everywhere when he finally arrived at a middle school near Golden Gate Park. The art teacher was happy to talk to him about all the fine entries in the local art show.

"Funny you should ask about lions," the teacher said. "We do have one entry made entirely of toy lions. But it's not here now. The students took their art home to show their parents before bringing it back for the actual show."

The next day, Rod arrived at the toy store when the store opened.

"How would you like to officially sponsor an art project?"

"I take it you found my lions."

"I did," Rod said, then leaned in. "And I want to make a deal with you. I'll cut my fee in half if you'll sponsor the art project made with your stolen toy lions."

The store owner performed mental calculations, the replied simply, "Okay. It's a deal."

Rod wanted to write in his case book that the art took first place. But it didn't. In fact it turned out to be ugly, just a bunch of toy lions stuck to a board with too much glue. The only high point of the case was a piece of masking tape stuck to the board. It read, "Sponsored by Dave's Toys."

Rod had pretended to be a parent and attended the show. He stopped by the lion art and asked the young boy, "Where in the world did you find so many lions?"

The boy fidgeted and mumbled, "At the toy store."

Rod tapped the masking tape. "And how much do you think they will end up costing you?"

The boy hung his head and mumbled something Rod couldn't hear. Then the boy blurted, "I have to pee." And ran from the room.

(2007) How Berkeley Parade, Berkeley, California   •  Photo Posted Sunday, November 11, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Black stairs in alley lead to red door
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In his middle years, Rod Scales Private Eye made it a point to document the town in which he worked. He carefully crisscrossed San Francisco, taking photographs of every building, front and back. He believed that such photographs would be of value when his investigation business blossomed later in life.

Rod never expected to work two months in Paris, or to find a missing child in Rome, or to find a father retired and selling rum in coconuts on Manual Antonio beach in Costa Rica.

So when Rod picked up his mail on return from a trip to Moscow, he was surprised to find a manila envelope containing a copy of one of his early photographs.

"Amazing," Rod said. "I wonder who could have made this copy."

Rod examined the photo. The image was of a fire escape behind a building in an alley. At the top of the steps was a red door.

On the back of the photo Rod found the hand written number "322," and the time, "Noon."

Rod spent the rest of the day and all that evening digging through boxes of photographs. He finally found the original in a box labeled "1981."

On the back of the original was the address. The stairs were on an alley behind a building on Kearny near Bush.

The next day Rod stood in front of the building on Kearny. The address was 315, an odd address. He crossed the street and looked for 322. No building existed with that address. Finally he walked around to the alley in the back. The black fire escape stood there, just as in the old photo, topped by a red door.

Rod climbed out of the smell of urine and into the smell of ammonia. Rod reached the top and rested a moment. Then he knocked on the door. There was no answer.

Rod looked at his watch. He was twenty seconds early. He waited then knocked again at noon. Again there was no answer.

Rod rubbed his chin and said his classic, "Hmmm." Then he snapped his fingers and said, "That might be it."

Rod knocked thrice, then twice, then twice again. From inside, Rod heard steps approach. The door opened a crack and a gruff voice asked, "You Rod Scales?"


"Take this." A hand slid a manila envelope out the gap in the door.

Rod took the envelope and the door was slammed shut.

"How rude," muttered Rod.

Rod pulled another photograph from the envelope, and looked at it. Again it was a copy of a photograph he had made in his middle years.

Rod flipped the photo over and rubbed a finger over the three words inked there, "Boiled Peanuts Today."

As Rod descended the steps he held his breath and considered whether or not he should accept a case so mysteriously presented. On the street and in the relative fresh air, he said to himself, "Why not. It would do me good to work a case in the City again."

Rod rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then said, "I think I'll call this the case of the Boiled Peanuts."

But days later he would look back and call it the Case Of The Priest and Ten Thousand Indian Baskets.

(2007) Some alley, San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Monday, November 12, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Horses pose in front of classic rural Celtic bar
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Rod Scales Private Eye disembarked the train in Galway, Ireland, and immediately went in search of a taxi. He walked out the main door and saw an imposing line of buses. A ramp-like sidewalk lead down to the cross street so he followed it down. At that end of the building he found a Hotel but no taxis. To his right, a regular drip drop of taxis sped down the side street that he had just left.

Rod returned to the line of buses. He rubbed his chin and muttered, "I wonder."

Taking care not to snag his day-bag or clothes, Rod squeezed between two parked buses and found himself standing in a wide clear area. A half dozen taxis stood parked, their drivers loitered, smoking and looking bored.

The taxi ride took almost an hour to reach Spiddel, a speck of a town a goodly ways up the western coast. The driver dropped him off on the main street through town and pointed. "She's back ther' b'hind the TV station."

Rod cut through the TV Station's parking lot and followed a path around to the tavern on the narrow street around back. Before going in, Rod stood and marveled at the picturesque scene. Horses graze on much too green grass, behind the tavern, under a blue sky.

Rod sighed and entered the Bar. The inside was dark, with high ceilings and old polished, dark wood trim. He approached the bartender and said, "I'm here to see Mr. Brady."

The bartender silently pointed to a door at the end of the long room, next to a dart board. Rod nodded and went to the door. He knocked. There was no answer.

Behind him the bar tender cleared his throat loudly.

"Oh yes," Rod said. He knocked thrice, then twice, the twice again.

The door was opened by a very short older man. For a moment, Rod thought he was looking at a leprechaun. The man was dressed in green, with a green cap.

The man glared up at him. "You're late."

"Mr. Brady? My plane from London to Dublin was delayed, so I had to catch the next later train."

"A thin excuse. A very thin excuse." The man waved his hand. "Ah well, I'll just go get your next clue."

Mr. Brady withdrew and closed the door.

Rod considered ordering a drink from the bar. Perhaps a Guinness. He mused, An actual Guinness to drink in Ireland.

But the door opened breaking Rod's musing.

Mr. Brady hand a manila envelope up to Rod. "Your clue."

Rod took the clue. Then for no reason that Rod could understand, Mr. Brady kicked Rod in the shin.

"There," said Mr. Brady. "That's for what you were thinking."

Mr. Brady closed the door.

Rod hobbled outside to find another taxi.

Rod forgot about the Guinness until he returned to London and, of course by then, the moment had been lost.

(2007) Spiddel, Ireland   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, November 13, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Mural in tile inside old zoo building
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Rod Scales Private Eye visited the zoo on a rare sunny morning in San Francisco. He paused on the steps of the conference building and marveled at the fine tile fresco that depicted children at peace among animals.

Rod noticed a tile seemed loose. He wrongly thought that by pushing it in he could re-seat it. Instead the tile fell out with a thunk on the wooden porch.

Rod bent to pick up the tile and noticed something shiny in the gap opened by the falling tile. He peered close and saw a small hole with something metal inside.

Rod searched through his pockets and, among all the do-dads he ordinarily carried, was a pair of tweezers. Using the tweezers he carefully pulled the metal out and discovered it was a gold chain. Rod held the chain in front of his eyes and noticed dried blood on it.

Rod turned the tile over to the zoo and the chain in to the police. Ninety days past and the chain could not be tied to any crime and nobody claimed it so it was returned to Rod.

Back then, of course, Watson and Crick had not yet discovered DNA, so the dried blood was meaningless. Rod wrapped the chain in plastic and put it in his files and then forgot about it.

In 2015 the zoo tore down the old building to replace it with a new animal display. The fresco was removed and preserved. When the wall behind it was opened a mixture of bones was found, some human.

Rod arose late to the smell of automatic coffee. He hobbled into the living room and turned on his TV/web/community wall screen and selected his avatar for the day, a rubber chicken. The news of the zoo tickled a memory. Rod spent the rest of the morning in his basement digging through old files. Eventually he found the chain.

Rod took the chain to a friend of his that ran the police lab. Modern tests determined that the chain belonged to Randy Wilks, an employee of the zoo who had died several years earlier.

Investigating Randy's background, the police found that his children had died in a tornado in Kansas. Later when his farm was repossessed, Randy dug up his kids' remains. Randy couldn't know that earlier generations had buried rabbits, dogs, and horses there too. Randy carried a mixture of bones with him until he landed a job at the zoo.

The fresco must have reminded Randy of his children. He re-buried their bones behind the fresco, plastering the hole shut from the inside. Only when he was done did he notice he had cut himself and the gold chain he had received from his wife, before she had passed away, had been lost.

Randy had been buried in a paupers grave in Colma. A collection by the employees of the zoo and the people of San Francisco allowed Randy to be dug up and his grave moved to a better cemetery. He was re-buried with his children and the animals that shared their grave behind the fresco.

The next evening, Rod returned from the ceremony honoring Randy. Rod paused in the hall and looked at himself in the mirror. An old man looked back at him. The old man was a stranger.

The old man winked at Rod. "Rod," he said. "You still have it. You definitely still have it."

(2007) San Francisco Zoo, California   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A handy way to never be lost again
(15 of 29) (26628 views)

Penny Wistom liked to enter contests. She preferred word contests over those based on chance, so naturally was smitten by a web-based "25 words or fewer" contest on the web.

The contest had a $1 per word entry fee, but guaranteed a one in two chance of a minimum of $100 prize, with the chance to win a million bucks. She wrote an entry that she felt would win for certain, and did it in only twenty-one words.

Penny was delighted a few weeks later to receive a check for $100 in the mail. The letter said she'd won the minimum prize.

Penny was less delighted the next day when she got her credit card bill. The web site had charged her twenty-one hundred dollars. Worried, she checked out the web site again, only this time read the rules she said she agreed to by clicking a box. Right there, near the end, it clearly said she agreed to pay $100 per word for her entry, not $1 as she had thought.

Penny turned off her computer and promised herself she would never turn it on again.

Back at work on Monday, Penny describe her plight to coworkers. Of all the suggestions, she like the idea of a private eye best. Somehow, a private eye, she felt, might unmask the villain behind the web site, and grant her a means to get her money back.

"I like a local fellow named Rod Scales," Penny's boss told her. "He only bills you if he succeeds, and is sharp as a tack."

Penny received email back from Rod Scales on her work computer. He instructed her to meet him at 7:00 p.m. after her work under the "You are here" sign in the Embarcadero center.

During her idle moment during the rest of the afternoon, Penny googled scams that charged per word. One entry describe the telegraph used in the late 1800s. Because charges were per word transmitted, customers became adept at phrasing telegraphic messages succinctly. "Home tonight," instead of, "I will see you when I get home tonight."

Penny arrived early at the Embarcadero Center. She found a map and located the "you are here" icon on it. She suddenly realized that, "she was there." No matter what map she found, she would be there.

Penny decided to wander, just in case the detective had something else in mind. She wandered for an hour, shopped for a new top and a book of crossword puzzles, and to pause for a bowl of chili. When she finally found the poster with the huge, and obvious "You are here" arrow, she was late.

Penny stood under the arrow and looked all around. No detective. She had a bad feeling that he had not waited for her.

Penny notice a small note taped to the base under the sign. She pulled it off and read it.

Back in 5. Please wait. Rod.

The note was succinct and to the point. It seemed to Penny as if the detective had paid per word and therefore had been frugal. "Just like the old telegraph," she said aloud.

Penny relaxed. Clearly this Rod Scales guy was the right man for the job.

(2007) Embarcadero Center, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Sun reflects off cars then off green marble wall
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On a fine spring day in 1967, several people reported a blinding light on Third street. When their vision returned, a body was discovered slumped on the sidewalk against a green marble wall.

Police could find no identification on the body. The victim's clothes were sent to the crime lab. Ozzie Gumps was a young lab worker new to the job. He was handed the material to examine but couldn't make heads nor tails out of any of it.

The body had a one carat diamond stuck with a sort of tie tack to its belly button. One arm was tattooed with a metallic looking material that almost made the tattoo seem 3D. And none of the clothes, not a stitch, was made of any material he had ever seen before. And oddest of all, every label showed that all the clothing was made in China.

On a fine spring day in 2007, Ozzie Gumps was preparing to finally retire from the police lab. He was going through his old files of John Doe deaths and stumbled on the odd case from 1967 that had been his very first case. He lacked the energy to re-examine the evidence himself but thought it might be amusing to his friend Rod Scales, a local private detective.

Rod looked over the scraps of clothing, the diamond on a stick, the sample cut of the dead man's tattoo. Rod read the police reports and slowly came to the conclusion that this might be another case of time travel.

Ozzie needed a cane to walk so declined Rod's invitation to find the marble wall. Rod went to the correct part of Third street and found a huge hole with the foundation of a new building being constructed.

The construction foreman remembered the old marble wall. He told Rod, "I think all that stuff got recycled at that big place in Hayward. You know, the Recycled Homes place."

At Recycled Homes, Rod found out that the marble had been sold to a new hotel in Las Vegas.

It was over 100 degrees on the sidewalk in Las Vegas. The new hotel had only been open for a few months but was already busy. Rod was told the marble had been installed in the vault lobby. "You'll need to be accompanied by a guard, of course."

The guard was young. "You have to check all your stuff here. That means everything, wallet, keys, watch, everything but piercings." The guard laughed. "Everyone has to do it. Even us guards."

As they walked to the vault lobby, Rod chatted with the guard.

"Yeah," said the guard. "But they call me Gus. That's easier than Gusliano Bromataibini." The guard laughed again.

The green marble lined one wall of the lobby. Photographs were mounted on the dark wood opposite. The lighting was subdued and hidden. The carpet was a dark grey and plush.

Rod began to pace back and forth in front of the marble. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but knew that he would recognize it if he found it. "You wouldn't happened to have a one carat diamond in your belly button would you?"

"Hey. How did you know that? You been spying on me?" Gus laughed a nervous laugh.

Rod noticed a glow in the marble, like a light somewhere behind it. He stopped walking and moved his head around to find it. There it was. He slowly approached the wall, keeping the light in sight.

As he approached the wall he asked, "Do you have a tattoo on your arm that seems 3D?"

"Yeah. I got it at that new place out by the airport. They use zinc or something to give it that look."

Rod was a mere foot from the wall and the glow was very distinct. It seemed like the glow hovered just behind the surface. Rod reached out to touch the glow.

A blinding flash filled the hallway. Rod stood and rubbed his eyes. Slowly his vision returned leaving after images floating around the peripheral.

The guard was gone.

Rod returned to the guard office to get his stuff back.

On the flight home Rod thought about a John Doe grave in San Francisco. He thought about how one spelled the name Gusliano Bromataibini. He wondered if Ozzie would like to go 50/50 with him for a headstone.

Rod leaned back and closed his eyes. He pictured in his mind a headstone for a dead John Doe from now, killed in 1967 on third street.

"Poor Gus," Rod said.

(2007) 3rd Street off Bryant, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Friday, November 16, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Radio dispatched
(17 of 29) (27579 views)

Rod Scales, Private Eye, flagged down a taxi on Market Street and was surprised when an old-time yellow cab pulled up. He bent down to make sure the cab was authentic, and was greeted by an frumpy gentleman wearing a formal top hat.

"Good evening, Mr. Scales," the man said with a big smile. "Where can I take you tonight."

Rod, not missing a beat, said, "To the Opera, and step on it."

Rod tried to engage the unusual cab driver in conversation, but the man refused to acknowledge him. Finally he arrived at the Opera and got out. "How much do I owe," Rod asked.

"Not a thing," said the driver. "It's on the house."

And with that the strange cab pulled away.

Rod met his friend from the crime lab, Ozzie, and they went into the Opera together. Rod thought nothing more about the cab until the next day.

With his morning coffee, Rod sat on his back porch and read the morning paper. There on the front page was the headline, "Antique yellow taxi, stolen."

Rod wondered if the driver of the night before was the thief or the victim. But Rod didn't have to wonder for long.

Rod heard a beeping from down below in the alley behind his house. He peeked over the edge and saw the same taxi parked below.

The same driver from the night before emerged from the driver's side, stood and looked up at Rod. He tipped his hat and smiled. "Rod," he yelled. "This is my gift to you for what you did for me thirty years from now."

With a twinkle, like tinsel chopped fine, the man vanished.

Rod finished his coffee, then walked back into his living room and called the police to report that he found the stolen taxi.

(2007) Veterans Day Parade, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Saturday, November 17, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Seafood Vendor on Stockton Street
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Rod Scales, newly minted Private Eye, was not a penny pincher, but tended to be frugal. After all, he was just starting out his career as a private detective and was eating through his savings at an alarming rate.

Rod always bought his daily dose of fish at the little fish market on Stockton Street. He found the fish least expensive there, and just as fresh.

John Weh owned the store and worked behind the counter. "Good morning Mr. Scales," greeted John.

"Good morning John. What do you recommend in the way of a fresh fish today."

"I'm very sorry," John said. "A man found mercury in my tuna and the health department won't let me sell fish for a while."

Rod looked and, sure enough, the case was barren of fish.

"I'll look into this for you," Rod said. "And I don't charge unless I solve the case."

John smiled and reached across the glass to shake Rod's hand. "I buy all my fish from the Malichi Brothers. I hope that gives you a place to start."

Later that day, Rod waited outside a door with a sign that read, "Back in 5." The door opened from inside almost immediately.

Rod introduced himself and asked, "Do you sell fish to John Weh?"

"All the time, but the health department already was here and said we were clean. But, you're welcome to come in and look around. You just have to wear an apron and hat."

Inside Rod was talking to one of the fishermen at a long table at the back. "See anything odd yesterday or the day before out there?"

The fisherman looked around to make sure they would not be overheard then spoke in a low voice. "I was pulling in the net when it felt like it snagged on something, then there was a bright flash under the water and after that the net came up smoothly."

"Did you catch a tuna?"

"Yes. A smallish one, but an adult. And I found this caught in the net."

The fisherman held up a green piece of marble, perhaps six inches on a side. "This rock was caught in the net next to that tuna." He handed it to Rod.

Rod hefted the rock and found it too light to be marble. "You mind if I keep this?"

"What do I want with a rock?"

Rod sent the chunk of marble off the be tested for mercury. The test cost him $40, more than he would normally spend in a week on food. The chunk didn't come back for a week.

The report, a week later, said the rock was 90% silicone, and some carbon, but no mercury.

Rod was disappointed and felt the $40 was wasted. Then he remembered reading about silicone in the newspaper.

Rod thumbed through the pile of old newspapers he kept on the back porch for the occasional Boy Scout paper drive. He found the article two weeks back. A new gadget called a transistor, reputed to some day replace the vacuum tube, had just been invented. It was made of mostly silicone.

Rod stood and stretched. This mystery didn't make sense to him. He tossed the chunk of not-marble back and forth between his two hands.

"What to do," he said. "What to do."

For want of a mystery breaking conclusion, Rod decided to just toss the rock in the garbage.

When the rock hit the bottom of the can, with a metallic sound, a bright flash of light glowed inside. Rod was briefly blinded. When his vision cleared, the garbage can, and all it contained, was gone.

"Cheese and crackers," Rod said. "Now I have to buy a new garbage can too."

(2007) Chinatown, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Monday, November 19, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Decorated stump
(19 of 29) (30548 views)

In the summer of 1968, John Speltzer went out into the woods stoned on LSD. He took with him small tins of marine-grade paint and religiously painted the tops of several tree stumps. He slept in the woods and, when normal the next day, used the painted stumps like bread crumbs of the old fairy tail to lead him back to camp.

In the summer of 2008, Laura and Ellie Speltzer awoke in the forest after the sun had already been up for three hours. They were cold and stiff. It took them a few minutes to untangle themselves from their entwined hoodies.

Laura, the oldest at thirteen stood first and announced, "Now that it's light, maybe we can find our way back."

Ellie, younger by three years, stood, brushed the dirt from her clothes and said, "No problem. I know exactly where we are."

Laura looked in all directions. It all looked the same to her. "Okay smarty pants, which way?"

Ellie pointed at a narrow path and said, "That way. That's the way back."

They followed the path and got along well together. Which was odd, because they usually fought at home.

They came into a clearing and sat to rest on a stump.

"Look," Ellie said. "Somebody drew on this stump. It's kinda like art."

"Hippie art from the sixties you mean." Laura again looked around and the forest still looked the same. She was getting very hungry. "Which way now?"

Ellie pointed at a path next to a large boulder. "That way," she said with confidence.

They followed the path down to a river. They both knew better, but they were so thirsty that they just drank straight from the river.

The river lead to another path, this time up hill. At the top of the hill was another small glade with a stump in the center.

"It's the same stump," Laura moaned. "We're going in circles."

Ellie looked at the stump and it sure looked the same to her too. She gulped, her confidence was flagging. She looked around the forest and brightened up a little. "This is a different spot. Look, there is no boulder by the path."

Laura tried her best, but the forest still all looked identical to her. "No," she said. "We're lost."

Ellie pointed at another path. "This way," she said, full of confidence again.

That path lead up hill to a wide flat glade. Dotting the glade were several tree stumps all with the same design.

At the far end of the glade was a rise and atop the rise a road.

Both girls jumped with joy. "We're safe," Laura said.

"I knew it. I knew it," Ellie said.

A car appeared around the distant corner. It was a police car with lights flashing. As it sped toward them the two girls moved to the side of the road then waved their arms to be seen. The policeman didn't notice them until the last minute and skidded to a stop well past them.

The policeman turned off his flashing lights and got out to meet the two girls as they ran up to him.

"Are you the Speltzer girls?" he asked.

Ellie was too excited to talk.

"I'm Laura," Laura said. "And this is my sister Ellie."

The policeman knelt down in front of them. "A lot of people have been looking for you," he said. "Thousands of volunteers have been combing these woods. A national alert went out. Some people thought you had been abducted. Your parents are worried sick."

Ellie began to cry.

"What is it?" asked the policeman. "Did something happen to you?"

Ellie mumbled.


Ellie looked at him, her eyes welling with tears. "We were lost," she said. "We were lost."

(2007) Capps Crossing Campground, California   •  Photo Posted Thursday, November 1, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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And so ends this year's parade
(20 of 29) (26629 views)

Rod Scales, Private Eye, stood on one side of Market Street and watched a woman on the other side of the street watch the parade. She was Nell, wife to Judge Hapson. She always seemed to dress in women's suits a half size too large and wore low-heeled pumps. This morning she was limping and using a cane. Overall the effect was to make her look older than she was.

Rod had been engaged by Judge Hapson to follow his wife. The judge hadn't explained why, but Rod suspected it related to a desire to divorce his wife.

As usual, Rod guaranteed his work and would only charge the Judge if he succeeded. Unfortunately, Rod was beginning to suspect he would fail because the Judge's wife had been nothing but totally proper for the last three weeks.

Nell saw a break in the parade and crossed the street toward Rod. She walked with a noticeable limp.

"Excuse me," Rod said.

"Sorry I don't have any change," Nell said without looking at him.

"No, Mrs. Hapson. I'm not homeless. This is just an outfit I use to prevent being noticed. I'm Rod Scales, a private eye."

Nell looked at Rod in surprise. "Nice. It worked. What can I do for you Mr. Scales?"

Rod described to her how her husband hired him to follow her. Rod stressed his guaranty and explained why he thought he would not be paid.

"So that's how he knew I joined a gym," Nell said. She bent and pulled down the knee sock on her left leg. "When I got home that night he kicked me repeatedly and said, 'That will teach you to join a gym without asking me first.'"

Rod whistled. "That's black and blue all right."

"Look," Nell said as she pulled her sock back up. "How about I hire you to get the goods on that cruel husband of mine."

"I'll have to turn in my photos and reports to him today. But after that I could work for you without conflict.

Nell thanked Rod and hobbled away.

A week later Rod met Nell at the offices of Wayne, Bronski, and Woo, divorce lawyers. He dropped the thick envelope of photos and recordings on the table in front of Nell.

"That should provide all the ammunition you need," Rod said. "Is there anything else you need?"

Nell handed Rod a check.

Rod looked at it and whistled. "This is ten times what I asked for."

Nell reached and took Rod's hand.

"What more could a girl need," Nell said. "Than an honest gumshoe like you."

Later that afternoon, Rod sat in a barber chair in the small barber shop across from the Sutter Stockton Garage. He was there for a haircut, a shave and a manicure. The works.

"Tomorrow is Thanksgiving," the barber said as he worked. "You plan on doing anything special?"

Rod thought about the question for a moment then said, "I'm doing it right now."

(2007) Veterans Day Parade, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Departures and Arrivals share a single building
(21 of 29) (26561 views)

Rod Scales, Private Eye, had no one with whom to celebrate seasonal holidays. He had never married, and his few remaining friends were, as he said, "Damned old stick in the muds."

To a significant extent, Rod's unattached freedom was responsible for his Thanksgiving day flight to Burbank's Bob Hope Airport. He was to meet a woman who was to give him a piece of evidence for which he had been searching for years. His flight back was just an hour later, so he hoped the woman would be prompt.

Rod waited on the sidewalk under the "Baggage Claim" sign as agreed. He faced the street and watched the comings and goings of cars.

Rod didn't have to wait long. The woman walked up to him from behind and stood next to him facing the street too. "You Rod?" she asked.

Rod glanced sideways at her. She was shorter than he was by about the width of a hand. Her hair was green and she wore huge hoop earrings. "I'm Rod Scales. You have the item?"

The woman swung her purse around. It was shaped like a wine skin and made of green leather that matched her hair. She unzipped the purse and reached inside. "Here it is." She pulled out a small stuffed bear. It was old and threadbare. She shook off purse-lint and handed it to Rod.

Rod looked it over. It appeared to be authentic. Rod squeezed it. The stuffing seemed intact and there were no obvious signs of it being re-stitched.

Rod pulled an envelope from his inside coat pocket and handed it to the woman. "As we agreed."

Rod tucked the bear in his outside coat pocket and watched the woman. She opened the envelope and smiled at the amount. Rod thought she had a pleasant smile.

"Say," Rod said. "Would you like to grab a cup of coffee with me? My flight back isn't for another hour."

The woman looked him over. She neither frowned nor smiled. "I'd like that," she said. Then she smiled. "I don't drink coffee. I generally only drink herb tea."

Rod spent the next half hour with the woman in the airport's only restaurant that was available to non-boarding-pass holders. Over coffee and tea, they spoke of many things. Of childhoods too often traveled, of winters too cold, and of summers too hot. They agreed on questions of politics, pets and fate, and disagreed on questions of taxes and Europe.

On the flight back, Rod felt satisfied. He had not spent this Thanksgiving alone after all.

Rod pulled out the bear and looked at it. "Another case," he said quietly to himself. "Bites the dust."

Rod leaned back and closed his eyes. "I wonder," he said, and thought about the woman.

(2007) Bob Hope Airport, Burbank, California   •  Photo Posted Thursday, November 22, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Two men discuss the meaning of life
(22 of 29) (26686 views)


Rod Scales, Private Eye, was dressed like a tourist in plaid shorts and a T-shirt that read, "Disneyland." He was in Universal Studio's City Walk working on a case.

Rod sat on a bench under a cow upside down in a car and rotated the Upstart Crow gift bag so that it faced two men standing a dozen yards away. The two men were bothers, middle aged, strong but slightly over weight. They, like Rod, were acting like tourists.

Rod aimed his bag perfectly and the voices of the two men began to record. In addition to the recording, rod was broadcasting the conversation via a cell phone to the guards in a security station.

"That last touchdown was just plain wrong. Did you see how the refs overlooked that grab at a face mask?"

"I have TeVo at home, and rewound the play. There was clearly ... no foul."

"Okay, well what about last night's game? Twenty feet. How he was tackled just ten feet, no five feet, from the goal?"

The taller brother spread his arms wide and said loudly, "Six feet easy."

His spreading arm struck a woman passing, dislodging her purse and dumping its contents across the sidewalk. "Hey," she yelled.

The taller brother blurted, "I'm sorry. I'm very sorry." He bent to help the woman pick up the contents of her purse.

The shorter brother turned his back on the scene as if embarrassed. He covered his mouth with his hand.

Rod glanced into the jewelry store and noticed all the employees looking at the excitement on the sidewalk. A woman deftly reached behind the counter and snatched a handful of diamonds.

"I hope you got that on videos," Rod said to the bag.

"Hey mister," a young boy next to Rod said. "Why are you talking to your bag?"

Rod glanced up and met the eyes of the taller brother glancing up at him. "I hate to run," Rod mouthed at the man. "Please don't run."

The taller brother ran one way, the shorter one ran the other way.

Rod said, "I'm getting too old for this." and continued to sit.

Rod let the younger security men run.

Instead, Rod reached into the bag and shut off the recorder. Then he leaned back on the bench and thought about lunch.

(2007) City Walk, Universal Studios, Hollywood   •  Photo Posted Friday, November 23, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Early morning at the corner of Highland and Hollywood Blvds.
(23 of 29) (26451 views)

Rod Scales couldn't believe, despite the rain the night before and the delayed flight, he was finally standing on the walk of fame in Hollywood. Over the years, Rod had traveled the entire state of California, and most of the other states, but during all that traveling, he had never before had reason to be in Hollywood, here on Hollywood Boulevard.

Rod walked, his head bent, just like a tourist, reading the names on the stars. There was Chaplin, one of his favorite directors.

"Want your picture taken with a super hero?" asked a voice nearby.

Rod looked up. Two men dressed in obviously fake super hero costumes stood in front of the Egyptian Theater. One held a cell phone in the manner one might hold a knife. The other rocked back and forth foot to foot as if he was cold.

"No thanks," Rod said.

"Only a buck. And we email it to you anywhere."

Rod peered closer at the super hero with the phone. "Don?" Rod said. "Is that you, Don Ragly?"

The super hero looked surprised, then he recognized Rod. "Rod Scales, is that really you. My god, but you've gotten old."

"Hows your dad?"

"I guess nobody told you. He died two years ago. A bad pile up on I-5 in tule fog."

"Sorry to hear that," Rod shook his head. "He was a good man."


A father and young son neared the group.

Don spotted them and advanced toward them, cell phone held out. "Picture taken with a super hero. Only one buck."

Rod said, "Bye Don."

Don waved his phone without looking back.

Rod turned and walked back toward the Metro station. He was thinking about Don's dad. He remembered the Case of the Missing Lug Nut. "Those were the days," Rod said to himself.

Rod paused at the head of the downscalator into the Metro. He looked back at Don and friend hawking photo opportunities. "Who'd of believed it," he said aloud to himself. "Little Don, all grown up to be a super hero."

(2007) Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, California   •  Photo Posted Saturday, November 24, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Clock glimpsed through a window
(24 of 29) (26639 views)

Rod Scales, Private Eye, was walking down from the breath-taking views of Tank Hill, when he noticed a clock inside a window. The clock read 2:30. Rod stopped in his tracks and said, "I'm late."

Now understand that Rod Scales was never late. He was, sometimes, a little early, but never, not ever, was he late.

For lunch earlier, Rod had eaten Chinese. The fortune cookie he had been served at the end of the meal had simply said, "A tank cannot run uphill any faster than a bear."

The fortune struck Rod as so strange that he remembered it when he got off the N Judah trolley at Stanyan. Tank Hill park was at the top of Stanyan. He had once solved the Case Of The Missing Cats there.

The view at the top of Tank Hill was spectacular that afternoon. The sky was so clear Rod could see all the way to Mt. Diablo beyond Walnut Creek.

Rod stuck his hands in his coat pockets and just stood transfixed. In his left pocket, Rod felt a small stuffed bear he'd purchased on Ebay a few days earlier, and picked up in person in Burbank. Rod pulled it out and looked at it. It was the first toy he could remember as a boy. Feeling along the left leg, Rod found the marble he'd tucked into the leg as a boy, then secretly, back then, re-stitched the leg.

Later, facing the clock and late, Rod decided to take the day off. Better, he reasoned, to not show up at all, than to be a half hour late.

Rod used his cell phone to telephone the client. "Sorry," he said. "I had a run-in with a bear. I'll have to postpone until tomorrow."

The client was skeptical, but Rod was so hard to hire, that the client gladly agreed to postpone.

Rod walked purposefully down the hill. He caught the N Judah trolley toward the beach. It was too fine a day to work, he felt, and besides he now had that marble. The one he so long ago had sewn into his stuffed bear's leg. The marble he had then, as a boy, sworn he would someday throw into the vast Pacific Ocean.

(2007) Tank Hill Park, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Sunday, November 25, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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At night, bridge scoots past fireboat dock
(25 of 29) (26610 views)

Donna Gillio was a 4th grade teacher. She was driving herself to work that morning in 1952, because her husband was at home with the flu. It was a chilly morning in Concord, California, with a light tule fog. Despite the car's heater, she wore a wool button-up sweater to stay warm.

Donna thought she saw a book in the road, she was still a bit sleepy so she swerved half heartedly. The car's right front tire ran over the book. A bright flash of light blinded Donna. She tried to hit the brake but her leg met thin air.

The steering wheel was gone from between her hands. Donna felt around her and thought she must be sitting on concrete and leaning against a wall.

Donna's vision cleared. She found herself on a sidewalk in a strange city. Across from her rose a huge stadium with a sign that read "AT&T Park." A grey train roared passed in the center of the road. Strange looking cars by the dozens rushed by on the street. Someone said, "Where's your cup," and dropped a quarter on the sidewalk by her hand.

The strange homeless woman was called 50's Donna. The few people that talked to her were struck by how well constructed her delusion was. She always seemed well dressed despite her rags. And she asked everyone who would listen if they knew where her husband was.

On an evening strangely absent of fog and without overcast, 50's Donna walked down the Embarcadero near the Fireboat station. She was cold and wondered where she would sleep that night. Someone had stolen her cart during the morning. She found it later, and it was burned, the cart and her few possessions ruined.

A flash, like a tourist taking a picture caught her attention, but the area was deserted. Donna approached the place where she'd seen the flash. A chunk of thick green tile rested on the wide concrete rail. Under it was a note.

Donna looked around but saw no one. She lifted the tile and extracted the note. She unfolded the note and read, "I expect you are Donna Eva Gillio married to Abe Leanord Gillio. If I am correct, you must touch the center of this tile. Regards, Rod Scales"

Donna was stunned. Nobody had known her full name in years, and nobody knew her husband's middle name. She'd always kept that secret.

Donna lifted the tile and looked at it. It was smooth and green and unexpectedly not heavy. Deep inside appeared lights, The lights seemed to rise and float just below the surface. The tile looked to her almost like a book she'd once seen in a road, years ago and far away.

Donna touched the tile exactly where the lights floated. A bright flash blinded her. As her vision cleared she found herself in her car. The engine idled. She was stopped with her car's wheel against the curb. She looked back on the road but saw no book there.

She smelled something really bad and discovered herself dressed in smelly rags. "Abe," she said.

Donna lived long enough to see AT&T gain naming rights to Pacbell Stadium. That was just long enough for her to feel she'd come full circle. Abe died several years earlier, and she missed him terribly. But this time as she stood facing the Stadium, leaning on her walker, she missed him in a not-so-bad way.

Behind her on the sidewalk she heard someone say, "Where's your cup," and then heard the sound of a quarter dropped on the sidewalk. Donna wanted to turn to look but didn't.

"There's full circle," she said. "And then there's full circle."

Multiple shots combined with Photomatix   •  (2007) San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge from Embarcadero   •  Photo Posted Monday, November 26, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Dog Eared Books
(26 of 29) (26739 views)

Dave Doubleten had lead a remarkably dull and uneventful life. He had never traveled, never flown, and never met anyone interesting. Instead of living his life, Dave lived vicariously by reading books.

Dave collected rare books, and signed first editions. He always used book marks, and looked darkly upon folks who bent the corner of a page to mark the place last read. Thus, that Friday morning, Dave almost passed up the Dog Eared Bookstore because the name reminded him of a bad habit.

But Dave stopped because he spotted a hardback book between two paperbacks in an outdoor bin. The hardback looked old. Dave carefully slipped the book out and looked at it.

It appeared to be made of stone, almost like green marble, but weighed almost nothing. Dave hefted it. It felt hollow.

Disappointed, Dave realized it was a box or something, not a book. He tossed it back into the bin. Dave was blinded by a bright flash. As his eyes cleared he heard screaming.

When Dave's vision cleared he found the bin of books gone.

A police car pulled up and several folks pointed at him and said, "He threw a bomb. I saw him. He tossed the bomb into the bin and blew it up"

The police handcuffed Dave and put him in the back of their car. Dave was stunned but calm. He watched the police and the owner of the store arguing. There was no damage to the front of the store. There was no sign of fire or smoke or any sign at all of an explosion.

An older man opened the car door and knelt down. "Hello," he said. "I'm detective Gumps. Can you describe what happened to me?"

Rod described the odd event in meticulous detail.

"Hmm," detective Gumps said. "A friend of mine, Rod Scales, has been tracking objects just like the one you found. And, if I'm not mistaken, that particular one works in less than an hour."

Behind them there was another bright flash. The crowd that had assembled screamed and ran. Detective Gumps stood allowing Dave to see that the book bin had reappeared.

Detective Gumps whispered instructions into Dave's ear, then helped Dave out of the door and removed his handcuffs. "Hold these," Detective Gumps said, and handed him the handcuffs.

Detective Gumps walked over to the book bin, carefully withdrew the strange book and slipped it into an evidence bag.

When the crowd and other police recovered from the bright flash they found the book bin returned, and the suspect standing outside the police car holding his handcuffs.

"Behold," said Dave loudly. He held up the handcuffs. "My stage name is The Great Redondolf. I will appear in Las Vegas next spring. Google me often."

Dave tossed the handcuffs to the nearest policeman. Then he turned and walked away. He expected to be grabbed from behind, but instead, from behind he heard the sound of applause.

Dave smiled, and walked a little faster.

(2007) Valencia near 20th, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, November 27, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Where to line up
(27 of 29) (26788 views)

Colorado W. was her stage name. She stood in line in a fashion store on the mall. She sipped orange juice, and waited for her turn to purchase an on-sale blouse. It was Black Friday, the big sales day following Thanksgiving, a Friday in 2007.

Colorado was bored and needed a smoke. Her hair bothered her so she tossed and shook her head to redistribute it. That was the last thing she remembered.

Colorado awoke in a hospital bed laying on her side. The hospital room looked old-timey. There was an old-style dial telephone on the bed stand.

Colorado heard a shuffling noise behind her so rolled over to investigate. She discovered a man about her age bent over and rifling though a drawer in the other bed stand. "Who are you?"

The man stood in surprise. "Hi," he said and smiled. "I'm Rod Scales, private eye. I see you're awake."

"Hi Rod. How did I get here? What happened?"

Rod held out one of her earrings. "Where did you get these?"

"I bought them this morning in the mall. Why?"

Rod rubbed his chin. "You were found lying on the ground in an orange orchard. You were naked and wore only these earrings. Any idea how you got there?"

Colorado felt herself blush. "None."

"It is my belief that these earrings caused you to travel in time to now. The year is 1972."

"What? What did you say the year was?"

"Look," Rod acted suddenly urgent. "We only have a few minutes more. It's important you put these back on and shake your head."

"What? Why?"

"That will take you back to your own time."

That sounded good to Colorado so she put the earrings in.

Rod held up his hand. "Wait," he said. "When you get back be sure to burn the earrings. Melting them with fire is the only way to destroy them."

Colorado felt silly but shook her head anyway. And that was the last thing she remembered.

Colorado awoke in the same store where she started. The store was closed and dimly lit. She was naked again.

Colorado took off the earrings and set them on the sales counter. Then she wandered the store finding clothes to wear. A pair of shoes finished the search. Dressed, she decided to call her boyfriend.

Colorado found a phone on the sales counter. As she pulled it toward her she knocked the two earrings off the counter top. Her last memory was watching the two earrings fall.

(2007) Glendale Mall, Glendale, California   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A train must have just arrived
(28 of 29) (26701 views)

Alan Barkley was 30 years old and waited at the top of the escalator for his mail order wife to arrive. He had dressed in shorts and a T-shirt early that morning so that he could impress her with how warm it was in Los Angeles. A 9:00 a.m. on the dot, Alan shivered and waited.

A group of people rode the upscalator up from the Red Line. He didn't see his new wife anywhere among them. Alan rocked from foot to foot and wondered how he'd missed the weather warning about a cold front.

An older woman approached him. She appeared old enough to be his mother.

"You Alan Barkley?" she asked. She had just the hint of an eastern European accent.

"Yes, I am."

"I'm Dora. I'm Bangela's mother." She looked Alan up and down, and nodded her approval.

Alan looked behind Dora and down the hole, but didn't see Bangela anywhere. "Where's my new wife?"

"I'll tell you." Dora said and put her arm through his. "We were riding the Red line here from the airport. All of a sudden there was a flash and a naked woman appeared on the floor of the car. My silly Bangela saw that there was a pair of earrings on the floor next to the woman. She picked them up and put them on."

Alan pursed his lips. He couldn't make heads or tails from what he was being told.

"My Bangela shook her head and blacked out. She woke up on the floor of the main library, naked just like the woman. When she found newspapers she discovered the year was 1977, thirty years ago. She was so shocked, she threw the devil earrings into a toilet and flushed them away."

"Hey, wait a second," Alan said at last. "How do you know what happened in 1977?"

Dora stood back but still held onto his arm. "Why haven't you guessed? Haven't you recognized me? I'm Bangela!"

The look of shock and disappointment on Alan's face almost broke, in that instant, Bangela's heart. She grabbed Alan and hugged him with both arms and called out, "My husband. My husband."

A man spoke next to them. "Excuse me," he said.

They both looked and found an elderly gentleman, tall, and well dressed.

"Allow me to introduce myself," he said. "I'm Dave Scales. The famous detective Rod Scales is my half brother." Dave paused, but neither of the others appeared to recognize the detective's name.

"I couldn't help but overhear your problem", Dave continued. "It happens that I travel the world in search of potions, perfumes, and liquors. During my travels I fond a potion that just might solve your problem." He pulled a small bottle from his pocket.

"Drink this tonight," Dave handed the bottle to Bangela. "Drink it before you sleep, and in the morning you will be young again."

Bangela and Alan looked at the bottle. It was filled with an amber fluid that seemed to glow.

"Well I have a plane to catch," Dave said. He waved and dashed down the stairs between the escalators.

Bangela looked at the bottle then up at Alan. She saw a hopeful twinkle in his eye.

Alan looked at his mail-order bride and saw a look of hope in her eyes.

Arm held tightly in arm, they walked home. Alan shivered as they walked. He noticed everyone else on the sidewalk was dressed warm. "You know," he said to Bangela. "Today is getting off to a really strange start."

"That it is," Bangela said. "That it is."

Los Angeles METRO, Red Line   •  (2007) Hollywood at Highland, Los Angeles   •  Photo Posted Thursday, November 29, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Chinese Slippers in store window
(29 of 29) (26608 views)

Dave Scales, half brother to Rod Scales, peered through the Chinatown store window at two pairs of Chinese slippers. He consulted his notebook which contained a description and compared it to the slippers. The smaller pair was an exact match.

Inside, the proprietor greeted Dave. "Good afternoon."

"I want to buy the small pair of slippers in your front window."

The proprietor's eyebrows raised. "You have a keen eye. It is said those slippers will cause the wearer to walk with kings."

The next day, Dave delivered the wrapped slippers to the famous lawyer, Muhammad Dichi, for whom Dave often worked. Muhammad was hosting a new-born party for his wife and new daughter.

"Thank you," Muhammad said. "I hope this isn't one of your potions." Muhammad smiled.

Dave smiled back. "Not at all."

Several years passed during which Muhammad Dichi stopped calling Dave. Dave hadn't been back to their house since the party so was surprised to receive an invitation by Muhammad to discuss perfumes.

Dave arrived spot on time.

A young girl opened the door. She carried a teddy bear and wore the Chinese slippers.

"Hello," Dave said. "And what's your name?"

"I'm Elsie," the girl said and held up her bear. "And this is my friend. His name is King."

Dave remembered the words of the Chinaman years before, and was dumbstruck. "Er. Hello King."

"I'll get my dad," Elsie said and dashed back into the house.

In the old days, Dave mused. When there really were kings, it was probably a law that nobody could name things King. After all, kings were anointed by God and making fun of a king might be called blasphemous.

Rod pictured in his mind a farm yard. Inside the yard sat a stubborn mule wearing a crown. And what if, he thought. What if the farmer named that mule King Ferdinand? Dave laughed.

A man in the doorway cleared his throat. It was Muhammad Dichi. "You here to work or what?" Muhammad asked. "What's so funny anyway?"

Dave put on his sober face. "King Ferdinand," he said.

Muhammad just scowled at him. "Come on," Muhammad said. "I have some perfumes for you to find."

As they walked back into the house, Dave pictured the farm yard again. Only this time the teddy bear sat in the yard wearing a crown. Dave shook his head. In the old days, he thought. A girl couldn't name just anything King. Such a girl, with those slippers, might have actually walked with a real king.

(2007) Chinatown, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Friday, November 30, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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