"The Unblinking Eye"
by EO Costello
2 January 1935 0645
Lemme tellya somethin', it ain't easy gettin'
inta work after a four-day weekend, 'specially after th' holidays an'
all. Stagg was real nice, an' more or less fixed things so
I didn't gotta show up much 'tween Christmas an' today. Most time
I've had in real long while t'play wit' th' pups. Not many folks
on th' beach, so I plays a lotta catch, and does a buncha
swimmin'. So I kinda felt good, mental-like, gettin' in.
Stagg'd left me a memo. Thought it was
somethin' 'bout what happened, but it was just sorta a funny memo 'bout
a movie I seen before Christmas, 'bout a Frenchie deer-detective.
Funny thing was that Stagg really did have some inside stuff 'bout what
happened, leastways toward th' end. [Note: the memorandum my great-grandfather
refers to has survived, as has been reproduced in this collection -
OXFB IV] Kinda figures, knowin' him.
'nother new thing I sees is that we gotta
telephone. Stagg comes in, not long after I does, an' sorta
looks it over, pickin' it up. It's one of them French jobs, don't
look like no 'merican or Brit job. Musta been picked up down
south from Tahiti or such. Looks used hard, but it works.
Plugged in t'HQ's switchboard. Downsidea this is that th' Chief's
gotta new way t'yell at us, but then, I figger he ain't all that keen
on yappin' with us nohow.
Kinda quiet fer us, guess th' nogoodniks
gotta hangover or somethin'. Papers today had more stuff on
th' filmin' that's goin on right now. See, Azimuth, big outfit
east in Hollywood, they likes doin' filmin' 'round here. Right
now, they're doin' a sorta sea epic. They been here doin'
boat-shots for a buncha weeks, an' they started doin' some talkin'
scenes last month. I asks Stagg 'bout it, since he's sorta
quiet-like doin' paperwork.
"Yes, I've read about it. Curious,
in a way, since from what I gather, the plot involves the Royal Navy's
anti-pirate patrols in the North Pacific, and the colonization of the
Spontoons by the British. I would have thought that would be a
sore subject for some, here."
"Yeah, well, ain't no bandage likea
stacka greenbacks, hanh? 'sides, most folks 'round here came
afterwords, so they don't care."
"Which reminds me. You said your
ancestor, the first one here, jumped ship early in the 19th century
from a whaler. But the books I've read indicate that the Islands
weren't really settled until much later..."
"Settled official-like, yeah. In th'
"Which leads me to believe that your family
was operating unofficially, then."
"Used t'brew this sorta homemade hooch that
had a real kick, usin' local fruits an' such. Pirates, folks from
t'other islands, they'd trade fer it, an', well, y'know, th' older
Brushes figgered they didn't have t'follow no laws 'bout registerin'
marriages, payin' taxes, keepin' records, an' such. Brits didn't
hold wit' nonea that, when they comes in. Broke up th' fun.
So my kin, we scoots up ta t'Uplands, an' we keeps makin' our
hooch. Why we broke inta th' law business."
"The 'poachers make the best gamekeepers'
"'bout right. Leastways, we knew
when th' Brits were comin' lookin' fer our still. Anyhow, ain't
much that's lasted, though. We don't sell th' hooch no
more. Folks want their Johnny Walker, not Sour Cocoanut
Popskull. Folks ain't got no respeck fer history no more."
2 January 1935 1350
Me 'n Stagg had a good, long lunch at
Luchow's, joint near HQ. Luchow offers Stagg a platea "roast
hedge, with all the trimmings." Stagg sorta smiles. I
was wonderin' how many ways Luchow could describe a deer's lunch.
Only so many synowhatsits for leaves, y'know?
Anyhow, we ain't back more'n a minute, hardly time
to hang up our hats, when th' phone rings. Nearly made me jump,
but Stagg sorta stretches outta paw, like it's instinct. Didn't
even look, didn't blink none.
"Detective Bureau. Inspector Stagg
speaking...yes...oh, I see...where?...Island Hospital...is she...I
see...any witnesses? I see. And this took place...?
Ah. Who telephoned in? Oh. Yes, I'm sure that
Ministry will contact us, too. Yes, Sergeant Brush and I will
start right away. Good afternoon."
Stagg hangs up, an' looks at me. "That was one
of the constables over on the Main Island. It seems one of the
extras on the location of that motion picture they're filming, filling
in as a "local," was assaulted. They don't know by whom.
Apparently, things are little confused and fussed over there. The
constable's superior told him to telephone me, apparently. I'll
go over and visit the site. The victim, it seems, has been
admitted to Island Hospital. Since she is, apparently, a native,
I think she might be more comfortable speaking to you, Sergeant."
I nods. Makes sense.
2 January 1935 1535
Didn't get much outta th' young miss.
Native all right, as far as things go. Kinda smallish
kittie. Speaks th' native lingo wit' no gaps, so I figger even if
her grandfolks ain't Spontoonie, she is. An' judging from her ma,
who's comfortin' her, she's native, too, though her Spontoonie ain't as
She looks real scared up at me, an' it don't get a
whole lot better when I flashes my buzzer an' intro myself.
you, sister. Myself Karok-son-Karok. Query respectful
emphasis name of thou?)
She gulps, nods, an' bites her lower
lip. Ain't hard t'see some real nasty bruises 'round her throat,
where a paw had squeezed real hard in.
Kanata-daughter-Felata. Emphasis scared myself is.)
understanding thou is. Myself sees injuries thou. Query
respectful emphasis relate unto myself regarding injuries these.)
The kittie looks up at me, shakes her head,
an' starts tearin' up.
scared myself is. Myself negative relate unto thou injuries
reasons. Emphasis shame fear myself.)
An' wit' that, the kittie clams up, and she
don't say no more. I nods, an' I figger this ain't gonna get
nowhere, 'specially if th' ma's about. So I chats up th' doc
outside. He tells me a bit. Perp quite a bit bigger 'n
kittie, strong. Only one setta paw marks, yet she almost kicked
it. Largish paw, bruises ain't real clear what species.
Perp tried to choke her, an' she lost consciousness, but he didn't
finish th' job. Took all of this down fer Stagg, an' I wuz just
'bout t'leave when the ma catches up t'me.
unto myself outlander name thou.)
"I'm Detective Brush, ma'am, when I ain't
"Ah. I do not often speak the English
these days, Detective. My daughter, I am sorry, she will not
"Yeah. Scared. Think she knows who
"I know not much of this, Detective. I
know my daughter, she sees one of these Americans, these film
people. The filming, it interests her, and she gets job as native
Spontoonie. She does not tell her mother about seeing this
American, but I hear things, I see the little gifts she gets, the small
jewelry, and I know these things, they are American. I know not
who this American is, and Kanata, she does not confide in me or confide
in friends who this American's name is."
"Know much 'bout what happened?"
"Kanata, she was to be in the filming of a
beach scene today. I know not more. The other natives, they
see Kanata lying on the ground, they call for help."
"Okeh. Thanks. That's helpful,
anyhow. I'll tell my boss."
"This boss, this is the outlander? The
one with horns and the stick?"
"Yup, that's him, all right. He's over
talkin' ta th' film boys now."
"Ah. The Wise One in my village, she
speak of him. Many Wise Ones know of him. Please tell
him for me to do his best."
2 January 1935 1805
I takes a water-taxi over ta t'Main
Island. Driver knows, as they always does, where th' action
is. It's sorta gettin' on gettin' dark, but folks are still
buzzin' round. Can't hardly say why, though, since there ain't no
filmin' goin on.
I sees Stagg pacin' on the beach, so I heads
up, an' I tells him what the ma kittie tells me, an' what the docs
"Sorry I ain't got more, but it ain't easy
givin' the third ta lil' scared kittie, know what I mean?"
"Well, what you told me is interesting.
It tallies with what the other extras were telling me. They said
that Kanata was seeing an American with the film crew. They
didn't know who he was, but apparently this American was causing her to
worry, for some reason, in the last few days. She seemed quite
upset when she got to the location this morning, but she was in the
scenes on the beach. Something happened on the fourth take,
because when the shooting stopped, one of the extras tripped over her
body. Filming stopped, of course, much to the aggravation of the
Azimuth executives. No one, of course, in the film crew knows who
she was, and I've spent the entire day talking with the extras up to
the technical crew and even the aforementioned executives. So I'm
not much further along than you are, Sergeant."
"So what now?"
"Well, I've asked to have the footage
from the fourth take prepared for screening. Perhaps there's a
chance something has been caught on camera that will give us a clue, or
some sort of help."
Stagg looks at his watch. "In
fact, it's supposed to be ready right about now. Let's see what's
been captured by the unblinking eye of the camera."
2 January 1935 1910
Ain't no place on shore fer modern
film-makin', I mean, the guts of it, so they has the setup in this
fancy yacht that some busted broker musta sold to Azimuth.
Screenin' room is right in the centre. Plush. Lotta comfy
chairs, lotta booze, lotta cigars. Kinda wish HQ would borra this
idea, but I ain't holdin' my breath.
Editor's still workin' on settin' stuff up, so
the intros are made. Th' ones that get my eye are th' director, a
whippet-sorta guy who looks like he's workin' on his fourth
ulcer. Th' leadin' lady, Esther Ermine, is there. Kinda
dressed down from her usual, she's wearin' slacks an' a pullover
sweater, an' smokin' an Abdullah. Th' leadin' man's Paul Meuli, real
ramrod straight-arrow deer. Now see, this is kinda funny, 'cause
he's the guy who plays th' Yank deer in "Th' Deer From Th'
Surete," meanin' he's th' one who took Stagg's role. [Note: Brush here is referring to the fact
that Azimuth's screenwriters, in adapting the memoirs of French
detective Henri Charles Grandcerf, assigned certain events that had
involved Inspector Stagg to an American deer, played by Mueli.
See the memorandum Stagg wrote on the subject, which precedes this case
- OXFB IV.] He sorta does a startled-like double-take as
he shakes paws, an' sits down quiet.
A few minutes later, while we was waitin' fer
the film, he turns t'Stagg.
"Forgive my reaction, Inspector, when I was
introduced to you. I was led to believe that you were dead."
"It's not for lack of trying, Mr. Meuli.
I'm sure that there are those who would like to prove your supposition
correct, after all."
"Yes...well, I do remember you, in your old
job, I mean. I played in New Haven a few times..."
"As Prince Hal, to Derek Ramm's Falstaff. You
ran for almost six months at the Long Wharf back in '24. I saw
your performance twice. I also saw you in "Midnight Strikes,"
the year after that, just before you went out to Hollywood."
Meuli gives a smile. "I'm flattered,
Inspector. The only thing I remember is that you arrested the
killer of that theatre critic toward the end of my run with Ramm."
"Hmmm. Yes, Shrike. Shot at
point-blank range in the bar of the Savin Rock Hotel, in front of
thirty witnesses, none of whom saw a thing. Or so they
claimed. Of course, they were all actors and actresses, so that
may have had something to do with it. We had quite some time
helping the District Attorney to find a jury that would convict the
killer of a critic in a theatre-mad city like New Haven, in those
days. In the end, the jury gave the killer only twenty years, as
"Well, perhaps the cameras, here, will be less
biased. Tell me, Inspector, do you mind if I watch you
closely? I always like to learn from life, as it were."
"Perhaps I can convince you to give up acting and
join Sergeant Brush and myself. A third set of paws is always
Meuli grins, but he ain't got time fer a crack,
'cause the film gets set up in th' booth. They douse the lights,
an' start up th' reel.
It's a wide shot, with Mueli, in Royal Navy officer
duds, talkin' t'Ermine in th' centre. Or at least, I thinks
they're talkin', 'cause this ain't got no sound. Buncha natives
off right. Th' take lasts about a minute or so. Somethin'
happens in th' centre, 'cause Ermine stops, turns, an' stamps her foot
twice, an' the take ends right after that.
"How come there ain't no sound?"
"It's a long shot, Sergeant," sez Meuli, "they dub
in the sound later when they mix and match the best shots. Did
you see the young lady who got attacked?"
"Yeah. Mebbe th' Inspector can back me up, but
I seen her, right near th' edge, sorta in the back. Just see her
Stagg turns to th' director. "Let's run the
film again, I want Sergeant Brush to make sure of his identification,
since he's the one who has actually seen and spoken with the young
They does, an' I gets up close an' look.
"Yeah, that's her. See? Only kittie in th' whole group,
'ceptin those two down in front. Crowd keeps movin' though, so
she pops in an' outta sight."
Stagg kinda frowns. "Hmm. This is
difficult. She's in an excellent position to be ambushed, even
during a shot, with hardly anyone knowing. Nearly all of the
attention is going to be on the two principals..."
Ermine pipes up. "Yeah, I'd hope
so. Otherwise, I ain't earning what Azimuth pays me."
'course, that gets a guffaw, an' even Stagg
smiles. "Well, we do know she was all right at the start of the
take, and we know when the take stopped, she was unconscious.
When is the last point we actually see her, though?"
We runs the film a third an' fourth time, an' I
swipes a stopwatch from a flunkie. Kittie's seen a few times in
'bout the first fifteen seconds, an' then the crowd sorta covers her
up, an' then it's about another minute 'fore the take gets blown.
Stagg looks at the watch each time, an' thinks. "So, there's
about a minute timeframe that starts fifteen seconds into the take when
it happened. Well, that's some more information."
"Say, where do they get th' sound they glue
in? Ain't nobody recordin' while this is goin' on?"
Th' director winces, an' glares at me, real
nasty like. Course, that coulda been his stomach. "No, what
do you take us for? We're recording the actors and picking up
their dialogue for the more important close-up."
Meuli butts in. "That would be the
two-shot, Inspector, showing myself and Miss Ermine, which is the key
shot for this scene. It would be from there that any dialogue
would be spliced in, from that recording to the long shot."
Th' director glares at Meuli. "Crissake,
you gonna take over my job, too? Or you just studying to play a
director whose head's gonna be on a silver platter if the cops don't
fix this fast? That's one part I've got no problem with you
"Take it easy, Harold. Just show the
Inspector the dubbed reel of the other camera shot, the two-shot."
loads that one up. Pretty clear
on this one, real sharp. Sound right from th' getgo, when th' guy
with th' clapping gizmo announces th' take. I've got th' watch
runnin' from th' clap sound, an' listenin' to Meuli. He's tellin'
Ermine that it's his duty ta clean up this neck a' th' Pacific, no
matter what the risk. Ermine, who's dolled up real nice in
costume, lissens, an' she's beggin' him an' such not ta be foolhardy,
when she blows her line, turns from the camera, an' lets out a
double-jointed comment. One, let me tellya, that would make th'
fur on any film censor's hide shrivel.
"Crissake, wish the screenwriters would give
me a set of lines that I can actually speak. What university did
we dredge these birds from, Harold?"
"Look, baby, this guy's gotta whole shelf of
prizes, you just let him do his job. And while you're at it, why
don't you do yours?"
Stagg chimes in here, 'fore things get outta
paw. "Sergeant, did you hear any noise on the sound track in that
last minute or so that would tip off as to something happening?"
"Well...um. Sorry, sir, I wuz watchin'
"Thanks, sweetie, I'll give you a signed
photo. At least someone in this joint has taste."
Th' Inspector sorta looks mildly at me.
"And did you notice anything, Sergeant?"
"Well, her tailfur swishes real nice when
she's mad, sir."
Natch, this brings down th' house, even th'
director. Only Stagg an' Meuli look sorta thoughtful.
Ermine turns t'me.
"Jeez, you foxes are all the same. I've never
seen a species that goes for tailfur like you guys. Oh, yeah,
your name Brush? Figures." She's grinnin' though, an' gives
me a wink through a clouda cigarette smoke. Good thing I'm
Stagg's thinkin', though, wit' his chin on his paws,
on his stick. Room quiets down, an' folks are lookin' at him, an'
at each other, wonderin' what's goin' on. After a few minutes, he
turns to th' director.
"I want you to set up both reels, side by
side, right about the time Miss Ermine has her line trouble. Run
the two-shot first, and then run the long shot."
"As for you, Sergeant, since you're the expert here
on tailfur, I want you to time with that stopwatch how long things take
from the point at which Miss Ermine has her line trouble, until the end
of the take."
So they runs th' reels again. I looks down
after they does, an' finds somethin' odd. "Hunh. They don't
match. There's a diff of a few tenths."
Stagg has them run the reels again. And
again. Same result.
Ermine blows a clouda cigarette smoke. "They
ought to send this reel to the screenwriter. I think this is the
way they really spoke in those days. They just didn't want to
Stagg's lookin' down at his hooves, an' Meuli's
lookin at him, in that sorta funny way deer got when they're studyin'
"Miss Ermine? Could you please stand up for a
minute? And you, too, Mr. Meuli."
Both of them looks at each other, puzzled, but they
"I'd like you to repeat everything that was on those
two reels. And when I mean everything, I mean everything, down to
Ermine looks sorta amused. Meuli, though,
looks dead serious. They goes through the routine, though.
Ermine puts some real pizzaz inta her fit, though, an' says the
double-jointed like she means it, an' gives a good stomp of her foot
an' swish of her tail. One stomp.
Stagg an' Meuli watches her real close, an' both
look at each other. It's only after this, that the bulb goes off
in my head.
"That ain't th' way she does it in th' long
shot. Two-shot, yes. But it ain't in th' long shot."
Th' director snorts. "That's impossible,
they're filmed at the same time. You can see that from the
Stagg looks up. "Run that long-shot reel
Real quiet while they're rewindin', an' then
when they runs it. In th' long shot, you can sees Ermine give her
tailfur a good hard swish an' stomp her foot. Twice, real fast.
When th' lights come up, Meuli ain't
there. Stagg sees this. "Quick. Where is the editor's
"Down the corridor, third door on the left,
He didn't have ta give no details.
Meanin', Brush, get there *fast*. I tear outta there, an' it
ain't hard ta find th' office, 'cause there's some yellin' goin on in
there. I busts in, an' I sees Meuli and a sorta largish cat
strugglin'. Meuli's got onea th' cat's paws, an' is bangin' it
hard against a table edge.
"Come on, damn you, drop it! Drop
Th' cat's gotta holda Meuli's neck, but he
sees that I've gotta my Police Special .38 pointed right at his head,
so he lets go of th' deer.
"Hey, buddie. You heard th' deer.
Drop it, what's in th' paw, there."
Cat gives me a good hard glare. I mean,
he's onea them mountain lion types, who could break your neck soon as
look at you. But there ain't no arguin' with a .38. He
opens up his paw, an' out flutters a crumpled bit of film, ain't more'n
a few inches. Meuli picks it up, just as Stagg comes in th' room,
wit' the rest right behind. He takes the film scrap from Meuli,
and holds it up to the light, an' looks real close, fer 'bout a minute.
"What's his name?"
"Tom Catamount. He's our film
Stagg turns to this Catamount. "Have you
anything to say, Mr. Catamount?" He don't get nothin' but a nasty
look. "Well, be that as it may, Mr. Catamount, I think these
frames of film must show something very interesting. Interesting
enough that you would edit them out of the reel and loop in a few
frames of Miss Ermine's tantrum. Something, of course, that you
would know how to do, technically. And since you were probably
the only one to see the film closely after it was delivered to you for
processing, you knew what you would see. And who would be the
wiser? Who would think to keep, after a few days, a film of a
Catamount just gives a low, snarly
growl. Stagg shrugs. "Given the fact that Mr. Meuli over
there is rubbing his throat, I can venture a guess that you have a
favourite tactic for dealing with those who get in your way.
Don't rub so hard, Mr. Meuli, I'd like to get a photo of those bruises,
for comparison purposes. Quite some strength, being able to do
that, one pawed. Do you have anything further to say, Mr.
Catamount just snarls something unner his
breath, so I claps a paira cuffs on him, an' leads him out. Stagg
"Some advice, Mr. Meuli. When researching from
life the role of a detective, it's best to do so from a safe
distance. Realism should only go so far."
4 January 1935 1105
Stagg wuz right. They blows up th' few
frames we got offa Catamount, an' surest thing ya know, he's in one
frame, sneakin' away. Ain't hard to guess it's a mountain
lion. Can't see his look, but I'll bet it ain't nice. Most
folks don't look like angels when they just been throttlin'
someone. Anyhow, Ermine blowin' her line stopped him from
finishin' his job.
I shows Katana th' mug shot of Catamount in
th' hospital in a buncha shots. She ID's him, all right, after
she hears we got somefur in jail. Didn't give me a whole lot
other than that, but enough ta makes me guess it's somethin' romantical
that went bust fast 'n ugly-like.
A few of th' boys from the Althing an' a few
suits from Hollywood burned a lil' midnight oil fer the last two
nights, tryin' to hammer out somethin' ta keep this quiet. Prolly
a payoff ta th' kittie, wit' some sorta doc to make sure she don't go
spillin' her guts ta t'Birdwatcher or somesuch. Don't wanna upset
Anyhow, it looked like th' file wasn't goin'
nowheres, leastways ta t'prosecutin' office, so we just types it up,
ties it up, an' sends it on up ta th' file room. Stagg gets in
one last thing, though, this mornin', in an Azimuth envelope, delivered
over from th' Main Island.
Stagg opens th' envelope, an' takes out a paira
photos. One's a nice shot of Meuli, wearin' th' airman's uniform
from "Th' Deer
From Th' Surete."
Franklin J. Stagg. Thank you for your advice and your
example. I intend to take both to heart."
Th' other's a shot of Ermine, an' it's in somethin'
that I thinks was done 'fore the Hays Office kicked inta high
gear. Shows her tailfur. Also shows a whole lot more.
She writes somethin' fer me on th' photo.
I'd rather not say what it wuz. Th' wife may
find out. I mean, she knows I'm a tailfur guy, but...