Friday, February 20, 2015

Appearing in issue #7, February 16, 2015

Title:  On the rocks

By Author:  BJ Bourg

Tag line:     The detective wondered if all three boys at the site had been happy campers…

Police characters:   Detective Grace Winston, Detective Brandon Sharper.

The gist:    Three teenage boys, age 17, went on a weekend camping trip.  The first night was uneventful, but when they woke up Nick was gone.  Thinking perhaps he had just gone home, the police checked with his parents but they had not seen him since he left for the trip.  The police were combing the woods looking for the boy. 

Detective Sharper had taken the remaining two boys’ licenses for ID, and handed them to Det. Winston.  Winston took the first boy, Rusty, aside to speak with him.  He said they had all set up camp yesterday, had talked by the campfire last night, he turned in around ten, and when they were making breakfast the next morning the two boys called to Nick but discovered he wasn’t in his tent.  Rusty said neither of them had any problems with Nick.  He said that Nick was a funny guy and everyone loved him, especially the girls.  He claimed that Nick said he wanted to go rock climbing in the dark and the two boys told him not to.

Next Det. Winston questioned Rory, the second boy.  He told basically the same story; that Nick wanted to climb the rock wall by the river and they both told him it was a dumb idea.  Rory said Nick was still sitting by the fire when he went to bed.  When the two boys realized Nick wasn’t in his tent they went looking by the rock wall and around the river to see if he had gone climbing but they didn’t see anything.  Rory called his mom to report Nick missing.   Rory also told Det. Winston that Nick is popular with the girls and that his girlfriend’s name is Theresa.

At this point a deputy, out of earshot of the two boys, informed Det. Winston that Nick’s body had been found.  It appeared that Nick had indeed fallen from the rock wall and his body had traveled downstream with the current until it snagged on a tree branch.

Det. Winston formed the opinion that Nick didn’t fall, that he had been pushed.  When she asked Rory who Theresa had dated before Nick, Rory told her she had dated Rusty, but Rusty was over it, and it was Rusty who had invited Nick camping.  

Det. Sharper asked Det. Winston how she knew it wasn’t an accident.

Crime scene:    Campsite in the woods.

Clues:    Nick was liked by the girls.  Rusty invited Nick camping.  Nick was dating Rusty’s ex.

Suspects:  The two boys, Rusty and Rory.

Red herrings:    None.

Solution:  When asked if they had any problems with Nick, Rusty referred to him in the past tense.  (Nick was a funny guy, everyone loved him.)  This made Det. Winston think he already knew he was dead.  Nick did go to the rock wall. Rusty followed him to have it out over Theresa. An argument ensued and it became a scuffle, at which point an angry Rusty pushed Nick into the river.

My two cents:    I figured it was girl problems because all the ladies loved Nick.  This was pretty simple, but all in all it was a good story.  I thought the clue was well hidden. I was glad to see it was a scuffle and a push, and not a planned murder.  After all, they’re only 17. 

The police work was spot on.  The story read well, and was paced well.  The author slid the clue in there like a pro.  The characters seemed real.  There was a motive for a fight, that then turned deadly.  Five stars.


Elizabeth said...

I'm glad to see Billy Bourg writing again so you have the chance to try to slice and dice his story! Billy's day job is law enforcement in Louisiana. His blog is

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Elizabeth. Ahhh....that's why his police work is perfect. I thought this was a great little story. This week's story was worthy of a contract. Hope to see more BJ mini-mysteries in WW. If you know him, invite him to stop by.

Joyce Ackley said...

I agree with most of your comments, Jody. This story was exceptionally well-written, with all the elements of a WW mystery. The clue was seamlessly entered into the story line, and it didn't stick out. I didn't pick up on the past tense until I'd read the solution.

You said there was a scuffle and a push and the murder didn't seem to be planned. I'm not so sure. The solution doesn't mention a scuffle, or if so, I missed it. It says,"Rusty had followed Nick to the rock wall and, still furious about the breakup with Theresa, had pushed his rival into the river."

Because of the age of the boys, this story was greatly disturbing to me. I know that teens kill each other. They kill their mothers and fathers, their siblings, their friends,'s just the world we live in. But it's still upsetting to me, and although the story was well-written, it struck a nerve.

When I taught middle school, two of our students got into a fight. One had a knife and killed the other. It didn't happen on campus, but in the victim's apartment complex. The victim was 14; the other boy, 15. The lives of two families were forever changed. It was devastating to our principal, the teachers, and the student body. One boy was African-American; the other, Hispanic. There was talk that the incident was racially motivated, but word was out that one had stolen a belt from the other, and that's what the fight was about. The boy who killed the other kid took a plea deal. He pleaded No Contest to Manslaughter with a Weapon, and got 10 years in prison and 10 years probation. Imagine. A 15 year old being in prison for 10 years. All his youth behind bars.

It was a horrible, difficult time. Grief counselors came into the school, and we were told to let the kids talk about it, and etc. But they started taking sides and the racial tension grew. We teachers feared other violent incidents might occur. In my classes, when anyone brought it up, I shut it down. The kids said I was uncaring and had no feelings. Many called me a racist. That really hurt. I allowed them to express their feelings through letters, poetry, art work, etc. Most of the kids drew tombstones with R.I.P. and hearts and flowers, etc. I tried to carry on and teach, but it was useless there for awhile. It seemed to take forever for our campus to return to any semblance of normalcy. Our principal really suffered.

I suppose that experience colored my thoughts about this story in WW to some degree. It just bothers me that kids can be filled with so much hatred, and that they don't think about the ramifications of their actions.

I just felt the need to vent. I didn't mean to go off on a tanget. As well- written as the story is, it bothered me and I couldn't enjoy it or feel entertained, just for the story.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Joyce. Everyone has that 'nerve' that sooner or later a story will hit, and when that happens it spoils the story for you. I'm sorry this happened right on your doorstep and that you had to live it. There are those moments in life that we never get over, that leave a permanent scar on our hearts. That was one of them for you.

As a criminal court reporter I do a lot of juvenile court, and I do see the level of anger and hatred that consumes some of these kids. They grow up to be angry, hateful adults. And then I see them in adult court. Sometimes the fight is over 'respect' and I just shake my head. They're not old enough to separate real disrespect from 'playground' behavior, and they seem to have little understanding in how to filter and handle the two. Lots of guns, too. Lots of them. And knives. For self defense, they'll say.

Anyway, getting back to the story, I don't always put in every detail about the solution, but it did say footprints at the rock area indicated there was a struggle, which signals to me that there was an argument or a confrontation of some sort, rather than just a quick push. Or maybe I just want it to be that way, as I too don't like to think of teenagers killing each other over a girl.

Chris said...

I have to say that, like Joyce, the fact that the story involved the death of a young lad bothered me. It didn't sit easily with me that teens were involved and that one was responsible for the killing, even accidentally, of another. Silly, given that it's fiction, but there you are.

That aside, I thought the story well written, and I loved the outdoor setting. I didn't actually see the was/is thing as a strong enough clue, because we all slip in and out of tenses when we talk and it doesn't mean the person we are talking about is dead. But I also missed the shoe marks by the rock wall, which apparently indicated a scuffle, so I didn't get the solution anyway. Personally I'd have preferred it if it had been distinctive shoe marks that incriminated the culprit, rather than that verbal slip-up.

One criticism I did have was the unnecessary use of Rusty and Rory as the names of the suspects. Why use such similar names when there are thousands to choose from? It caused confusion in my mind as to which one had said what, which could easily have been avoided. Otherwise, I thought it was a reasonable read.

(Joyce, the story you told of the pupil's death made harrowing reading and I am so sorry to hear what happened. The ripple effect of such tragedies can last a long time and affect many more lives than just those who were directly involved.)

Jody E. Lebel said...

@Chris. Yes, this story bothered a lot of us. I want to believe, even though it's just a story, that the footprints indicating a scuffle meant he didn't do it on purpose. However, he did give him a good push off the rock wall into the river. He had to have known he would at the very least be injured. I did jump on the 'scuffle' detail and I did try to soft-soap it a little.

You never know what was cut out of the story either. The author could have meant the boy to kill the other one, or he could have meant it was a dumb fight that ended badly. It's hard to tell unless Billy chimes in. I've invited him.

He's a police officer. I'm sure he's seen teenage killings before and perhaps thinks nothing of writing about them. You know, over the years at first you're shocked, then you're saddened, and then you start to see it as another case number. I've seen enough dead baby cases that I can tell you that's what happened to me. Now, I just try to concentrate on being a part of the team that brings charges against the bad guy. But I know better than to write stories about dead children. A cop might not see the bigger picture. His story would have worked if there were three adults camping/fishing and the same story happened. Except for the rock climbing at night. An adult might not do that. He could have been night fishing though. That would have worked.

BJ Bourg said...


Thank you very much for the positive review and for being so nice :-). Thanks to Elizabeth, Joyce and Chris, as well, for commenting on it. I always consider it a great honor when someone takes the time to review or discuss something I wrote. Also, many thanks to Joyce for her work as a teacher. As a parent who cares about his children’s education, I love, respect and support teachers.

Alas, the murder was intentional—in my mind anyway. As with many stories, I’m sure one could read it and draw a different conclusion.

Thanks again to all of you!

Chris said...

Hi BJ, good to see the writer chipping in, and for the second week running. So few drop by, I think maybe we scare them off. I agree, anyone who takes the time to make a comment or suggestion about my work is fine in my book. Just out of curiosity, why DID you go for such similar names? Maybe it's just me, but it blurred the edges between the two suspects in my mind. Anyway, I hope we see more of your stories in WW very soon.

Jody, you just created a whole new story there. Just give it a fresh slant with some grumpy dialogue between the old boys. If you use the fishing angle, that could be what leads to the murder; old rivalries resurfacing over who caught the biggest fish/won the best trophy. How strong is fishing line - could it be used to strangle someone, or would it snap? (This isn't plagiarism, it's creative writing.)

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ BJ My pleasure actually. It's a lot easier to critique these stories when you have something to work with. When the story is, let's say lacking, my whole demeanor changes and I become a character from Grimm slashing and ripping. And there may be a little burning, too. And when the police work is shoddy or just downright dumb, I just want to stab somebody with my red pencil. Then along comes a great story and I can take a breath. So thank YOU.

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ Chris. I often read a story and a spin-off pops in my head. Happens all the time. I recall author Janet Evanovich, in her book on how to write, advising writers to get their inspiration from other writers by taking their (other authors) stories and reworking them, putting your own spin and voice on them, and making then your own. I think Stephen King said the same thing, only, of course, with some bloody bits and pieces added. And maybe a crazy mechanic or a demented yard man. lol

BJ Bourg said...


I’ll answer any questions regarding the characters’ actions (if I even know—sometimes they come alive and do their “own thing”), but I don’t respond to critiques of my work (good or bad)…other than to thank those who took the time to read it and comment.

Having said that, I’ll now critique your comment regarding the possibility y’all scare off writers. :-) Without bloviating, I’ll simply say I’ve been in a lot of deadly situations as a cop, fought professionally in front of hundreds of people, testified in major trials where the case hinged solely on my word, etc., etc. The scariest thing I’ve ever done? Submitted a finished manuscript to a publisher/editor. So, do I think these writers are scared of y’all? No way. Writers in general who submit their work for consideration and possible rejection are brave souls.

As for the writers discussed here, they’ve already lived through the scary part and came out a winner, so I don’t believe for a second that they’re scared of anyone’s comment(s). Instead, I believe most of them do what I do…they read the comments (good or bad) with great appreciation and feel honored that someone cared enough to discuss it. They then apply the information they think will improve their future stories and ignore those that won’t. It’s simple. :-)

Thanks again to Jody for the nice review and for turning my attention here. This is a good resource for anyone aspiring to get stories published in WW. I will definitely visit often.

BJ Bourg said...


What I say is, "We're only as good as our NEXT story." You might hate my next piece (should I be lucky enough to get another one place in WW) and slash me, rip me and set me on fire. :-)

BJ Bourg said...


Joyce Ackley said...

BJ, it was nice of you to stop by Jody's blog. I enjoyed your comments. I appreciate your saying "Thank you" to me for my years of teaching. I'd like to thank you as well for your work in keeping our citizens safe, and for your bravery on a daily basis.

I look forward to reading more of your work in WW and other publications. I'll check out your blog, too.

Have a gteat day!

Jody E. Lebel said...

@ BJ

"You might hate my next piece (should I be lucky enough to get another one place in WW) and slash me, rip me and set me on fire. :-)"

I've got my stun gun at the ready. :)