Challenge 293 Response
Carmen Ruggero writes about...
“A Body of Water”
Grayson Thorne discovers the bottle of Xanax is missing several hours after Jack brings him home. Grayson wakes up from a nap convinced that the ritual didn’t work and goes to his computer to check his e-mail. He finds one e-mail without a return address, warning him that he only has 19 hours to kill Sarah. That’s when he searches his pocket and discovers the bottle is missing.
Jack can’t possibly conclude that the bottle of Xanax is evidence of Thorne’s involvement in Sarah’s death, because, in the first place, I’m sure the bottle rolled out of Thorne’s pocket while he was undressing.
Jack has been missing for a while, or so Thorne believes. He seems to reappear right after the ritual is over. That’s what made me think that it was Jack playing mind tricks on Thorne to get him to kill Sarah.
Jack was the one who picked things up after the ritual. He wrapped the goat in a garbage bag, and took Thorne home. That bottle of Xanax was probably in Jack’s possession.
In addition, the demon told Thorne to asphyxiate her in order not to leave any evidence. It’s been one year since the murder by the time Jack finds the bottle of Xanax. Obviously the bottle was not found anywhere near the body. The question is: where did Jack find the Xanax?
Almost from the very beginning, Jack’s behavior seems suspicious. First, it’s the joke he pulls when Grayson Thorne goes to touch the artifact. It has a touch of insincerity. He scares Grayson half to death by catching him off guard, and then he plays nice: “Hey buddy, it was just a joke.” That left me thinking that Jack is someone to watch out, for.
A few behavioral traits: There’s a way Jack points to his own savoir-faire; he remembers Grayson drinks brandy and makes him feel important. He insists that Grayson come to dinner that night, although his friend has made it clear that it is not a good time for him. The fact that Sarah is very religious, and Jack’s considering shaking hands with a demon might put Sarah at risk. She’s four months pregnant, and that might stand in the way of a divorce. The way Jack insists that Grayson be the first to try the demon. Jack reeks of insincerity.
First, I thought that “Body of Water” had the makings of an excellent mystery. The demonic element, I thought, was a good tool, a vehicle for Jack to manipulate Grayson. And if the author’s intent were to show skepticism or disbelief of the supernatural, I think letting Jack trick Grayson into killing Sarah, or driving him crazy for believing he had killed her, would be the way to go.
Copyright © 2008 by Carmen Ruggero
A clever plot you have there, Carmen. Only one problem with it: Hudor Diabolos, the water demon, itself. It’s a full-fledged character in the story even though it acts only within Grayson Thorne’s mind.
Jack Sheppard must be a master at inducing hallucinations if you want to have him play mind tricks on Grayson Thorne. But that’s a blind alley: whatever Jack does, he can’t know what Thorne’s hallucinations really are or, therefore, what Hudor Diabolos tells Grayson to do.
The Challenge asks: “How else might the story end in order to justify either skepticism about or distrust of the supernatural?”
My answer: the supernatural — in the person of the water demon — has to be accepted as real for Tim Simmons’ plot to work at all. And if Hudor Diabolos represents the supernatural, then what can one do but distrust it, since the water demon cynically double-crosses Grayson Thorne?
A least-effort solution to the problem of the Xanax bottle might have Thorne stuffing the bottle into his pocket as he departs on his mission of murder. Then, a year later, Jack could say he found the bottle under some furniture and realized it could have fallen there only when Thorne had come to murder Sarah while he, Jack, was away.