“I was thinking Chinese for dinner tonight. Wife says I need to lay off, but then she eats just as much as I do when I bring it home.”

“Are you even listening to yourselves?” I said. “Talking about moo goo gai pan when a man is dead and murdered in his own home?”

The officer shrugged. “It’s no worse than one of his movies. You ever see any of them?”

“Yes,” I said, my insides heaving at the splatters of blood and the outline on the floor which depicted the unrecognizable heap in which director Candon Verbridge had been found. “I wasn’t a fan. Too gory.”

“Too gory?” the officer said. “That was the best thing about them. Best splatterpunk director to come out of America during the last fifty years.”

“And you don’t find it at all odd that he was, himself, splattered and cored?” I asked. A police officer with a fondness for splattercore seemed a much better preparation for the scene of a violent homicide than a lifetime of reviewing films.

“Huh. I suppose it is,” said the officer. “Maybe it was a copycat. Some nutty fan. The scene looks a lot like The Scattered Stains, doesn’t it?”

It didn’t just look like that nauseatingly, horrifyingly gory movie, I thought. It was nigh identical, at least from what I could remember seeing through my fingers at the screening. I was about to say something in reply, to confirm the officer’s theory, when a thought struck me:

The Scattered Stains had been about an incorporeal entity that had murdered anyone who refused it.

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“But I’m an entertainment reporter,” I protested. “I don’t cover crime scenes.”

“I know what you are,” snapped Sturlsson. “I sign your paychecks, remember? But this is a big deal, exactly the sort of thing I need to haul the paper out of red ink for the year, and it has an entertainment angle. So you’re on assignment with Baxter and Rodriguez. The address is in your email; I expect you there in 20 minutes.”

“Just…Steve, will you just do me the common goddamn courtesy of telling me what’s going on?”

Sturlsson made a noise halfway between a sign and a groan. “Okay, fine, whatever. You know Candon Verbridge?”

I knew him, all right. An auteur director, dozens of films under his belt, most with buckets of gore and loads of sex. Critics generally loved him because his movies weren’t cookie cutter products of a Hollywood that saw fit to stamp out two trilogies’ worth of Transformers. I hated him because I tended to faint at the sight of band-aid worthy cuts; my ex-girlfriend can fill you in on the sex part.

“Yeah,” I said. “His movies never make more than 30 million but I always get loads of hate mail when I pan them.”

“Some of your better work,” Sturlsson said with the air of delivering a magnanimous–if forced–compliment. “Controversy sells papers and generates clickthroughs. Anyway, Verbridge has a vacation home outside of town.”

“Candon Verbridge had a vacation home outside of town?” I cried, a little aghast that the director I panned might have been just a few miles away.

“Nobody knew, apparently. But they will soon.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Someone burgled Verbridge’s cabin, he had to call the cops, and now that the secret’s out, you want me to talk to him while he’s still in shock.”

“Well, you can talk to him if you want,” said Sturlsson, “but I don’t expect he’ll answer. He’s dead. Murdered. Real bloody one by the sound of things, but I have an in with the sheriff and I need someone who knows what the hell he directed as part of the write-up. So you’re in.”

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