Excerpt from “Black Swan Hunting”

Photo by Eugene Chystiakov on Unsplash

Content Warning: this story alludes to spousal abuse and the assumed death/suicide of a distraught woman.

I’ve been working on a writing project idea for a murder mystery with lots of twists and turns. Just what everyone needs, right? I love murder mysteries that involve birds – I’ve been writing them since I was 8… though that one was terrible. It involved a frontier family being murdered and the daughter being brought back to life as a falcon who hunts down their murderer for revenge! He stole their family’s gold! Peck out your eyes because it’s a falcon with a gun! It got silly. I hope I’m better at writing murder mysteries now.

I fell in love with black swans while we were in New Zealand from December 2018 – January 2019. They behave differently than our North American sassy sociopaths that have a penchant for mauling small children along lakesides. Instead they are the more chill goth cousins that happen to be open about their homosexuality. That said, I would not put it past them to maul a child or two just for funsies on occasion.

How do black swans connect to this story? Well, that will be revealed in time. Let me know what you think of this brief preview in the comments.

The rain-soaked through Harriet’s trench coat as the mud swallowed her boots, belching with each step toward the fiery wreckage. Her umbrella braced against the torrential spring storm while the sergeant shouted over the pummeling drops. “Just spoke with the husband. Seems there’d been an argument and she’d taken off with the car a few hours ago. Someone in town says they saw her buying a bottle of vodka.” He paused and gazed at the flames spewing from the driver’s side window against the efforts of rescue workers. “A body is still inside, but it will be a few days before the official medical examiner’s report.”

Harriet’s heart sank. Another death on another stormy night. “How’s the husband?” She asked, shielding her eyes against a stinging attack of wind and infernal heat.

“Seems real broken up over it, but it sounds like a mate’s supporting him. Not much you can do here – you might as well go see him.” He ripped and folded a piece of paper, pressing it into her palm. “That’s the address.”

With a final glance at the war waging between emergency services as they continued to attack the blaze with billowing flame retardants, she slogged back to her car.

When Harriet arrived, the townhome glowed with two men visible through the front window. With her muddy boots in the back seat, she rummaged through her passenger seat finding only her gym bag for a pair of non-muddy sneakers to pull on over her damp wool socks. Taking a deep breath, she thanked God she was not tasked with delivering the bad news. Opening the car door, she scurried to the storm door, opening it and knocking as one of the silhouettes moved to greet her.

A familiar tall, slender man with grey temples answered. “Hello?”

“Sorry to disturb you so late, I’m Detective Dunn. Is John Morrisey available?” As she spoke, the recognition connected in her brain and her face reddened. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Rogers. No one informed me you were involved in this case.”

He opened the door with his face cast down, “The Morriseys are dear friends. Please come in, Detective.” Removing her wet sneakers in the foyer, she followed the man into the front room where a broken John Morrisey folded himself into the corner of the bay window. “John, there’s a detective here to see you.”

John lifted a head of dirty blond hair from his knees to reveal swollen grey-green eyes. “Is my wife really dead?”

Harriet swallowed. “I’m afraid the car appeared to have someone inside, yes.” Turning to look at the other man she motioned to a plush armchair and sat when he nodded. “It’s important that we ask questions as soon as possible to reduce lost information. Do you think you can help?”

John closed his eyes and nodded. “I can try.”

Harried pulled a notepad and pencil from her bag. “Mr. Rogers, were you also present?”

“Please, call me Dustin. I think it will help John feel easier.” Dustin sat next to John on the window seat, putting an arm around his shoulder. “I came over shortly after Libby and John fought.”

“What did you fight about?” Harriet jotted the date and time at the top of the page.

“I filed for divorce.” A tear escaped John’s eyes.

“And she did not agree?” Harriet pressed, a small point of graphite forming on the page where the pencil rested.

“Correct.” John nodded. “Our relationship had degraded since the birth of our daughter, Kedra.”

“How so?” Harriet scanned the two men as Dustin’s expression changed.

“There are police reports,” Dustin added. “Libby’s behavior had always been wild. But she started hurting both John and Kedra.” John nodded, his face red and breathing irregular.

“She’s just a baby! I had to protect her!” John sobbed. “When I told Libby we were moving out – that I was taking Kedra – she lost it. Fucking lost it. At first, she started hitting me until I said I was calling the police. Said I’d be sorry. Said I’d regret it.” John crumpled. “Then she drove off with our car and I called Dustin.” John wailed as an infant awoke somewhere in the house. “I never wanted her to die! She’s my wife! I loved her!”

Harriet watched John slide to the floor from the window seat, her hands gripping her notepad and pencil. “Do you know where she went after she left?”

John shook his head while Dustin’s shoulders slacked. “I called some of her friends, but no one had seen her.” Dustin stood up and walked from the room, returning moments later holding a crying child around a year old against his shoulder.

“About what time did she leave with the car?” Harriet frowned as John lifted his head and mumbled. “I’m so sorry, could you repeat that?”

“Five-thirty this evening.” John choked out through a sob.

Harriet wrote the time and stared at it. The accident report came in shortly after eleven leaving five and a half hours unaccounted for. She returned her gaze to John and softened her face, putting away her notebook and pencil. “John, I’m so sorry for you and your daughter’s loss.” Reaching into her wallet, she fished out two cards, passing one to each of the men. “If either of you thinks of anything or need anything, please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’m going to go ahead and get out of your hair for the night.”

Departing the house she called her partner from the car – he’d know what to do. “Hey – have you started the case file on the Morrisey death?”

“You know I have.” Her favorite partner’s melodic voice responded. “More details?”

“The wife left the house with the family car around five-thirty in the evening.” She read off her notes. “Be sure to pull up all domestics filed on Libby Morrisey. It sounds like she had a record from the past year. The husband filed for divorce. He told her this shortly before she left the house.”

“I’ll have it all pulled by the time you’re here, dog.” Her partner grinned through the phone. “Drive safe – bad weather out there.”

“I will.” Harriet fastened herself into the vehicle and looked back at the house where two silhouettes faded into the background of a backlit bay window with pulled curtains just before turning out the lights.

Thank you for taking the time to read this draft excerpt today! If you would like to follow this project or see updates, please like, comment, and/or share. This helps me know which stories and projects interest my readers the most.

Jacob & Lo Fix It: A Teardown, Cleaning, And Reassembly Of The Vornado

Our trusty fan/heater for our bedroom stopped working. When we turned on the heater it smelled like burning hair and set off the fire alarm. When we turned on the fan the blade wouldn’t turn. Were we going to throw it out and get a new one? No way! That’s not the Berg Potter thing to do. We were raised by families that believed in repairing objects instead of replacing them for many reasons:

  • It’s more fun
  • It gives us something to do
  • It saves money
  • You can modify objects to your specifications
  • It keeps the item out of a landfill
  • Should we decide to replace the item anyway we can now donate it to a charity shop instead of throwing it out, therefore still keeping it out of a landfill.

So that’s what we are going to do.

Besides, Jacob prefers the white noise from this fan over my Dohm white noise maker. I can play-pretend either of them into music in my head while falling asleep, so it does not matter to me.

This is our subject today. The Vornado small room tower heater is an inexpensive fan a former roommate left behind.

Before opening the fan up Jacob suspected that hair had wrapped around and was clogging the axle similar to the hair tangling disasters involving the Roomba.

I suspected that the problem was dust, grime, and general filth. My suspicion was driven by the burning smell and smoke each time we turned the heater on.

There were 4 screws holding the two sides together – 2 weren’t necessarily hidden so much as they were not recognizable immediately. The screws are of different lengths and threads depending on their location, so be sure to keep track of where the screws go.

As you can see upon opening up the fan it was, in fact, filthy. But was this really the issue?

We needed to detach the fan and heater from the tower in order to start taking it apart and hopefully get it clean and see what the problem was.

We did try to turn the blades by hand once the tower was opened and noticed that there was a fair amount of resistance.

Look how gross that is

We were able to detach the fan and heater from the tower. This allowed us to take a closer look at the connection between the fan and the motor. For this we needed fine point tweezers, Jacob used electronics tweezers.

Upon examination we did see a small amount of hair wrapped around the axle, but nothing that would explain the resistance we noticed while turning the blades. Either way, we removed the hair.

We decided it made the most sense at this point to detach the fan motor from the heater. This is when things got a little scary and gross. We found the hidden civilization of dust bunnies and discovered that every time we turned on the heater we were likely sending a death ray to kill them all. This may explain the fire alarm issue.

So we relocated them to the belly of the vacuum.

Removing the fan blade proved a bit challenging. We brought in the WD-40.

This is when we remind readers that it is important to always work WD-40 in to an area because it is a solvent. The principle components of WD-40 are kerosene and mineral oil according to boffins that like to do analytics on proprietary substances because we’re curious. You can do this simply by spinning the fan blade. This was enough to get the fan blade unstuck.

And there you have an exposed motor! A very dirty exposed motor.

After much cleaning (remember to remove the Q-tips once you’re done and try not to leave any cotton fibers stuck in the motor), we examined the construction of the Vornado and discovered it was assembled with the intent that it would not be disassembled and repaired (in our opinion).

We think this because many of the connections inside were permanently riveted instead of being removable and the wires to those connections were short, bundled, and zip-tied in place making it difficult to repair.

Next, we approach the heating element that still has quite the lost civilization of dust bunnies. As part of our dust bunny refugee relocation program, we did use our high speed Dyson relocation machine (aka vacuum).

Hopefully there will be significantly less smoke with future use from now on.

This detail is important for those that are interested in replicating our repair. Remember how in the beginning both Jacob and I had different ideas about what was wrong with the fan? We both were incorrect. What the fan and motor needed most was new lubricant.

WD-40 helped by acting as a solvent during the cleaning process and will provide lubrication in the short term. However, kerosene (one of the primary ingredients in WD-40) evaporates quickly and it will not provide long lasting lubrication. Due to this issue, we needed to provide a better, longer lasting lubricant.

We went with a spray White Lithium Grease lubricant – this can be purchased in either a paste or spray and works great in situations where you have metal rubbing against metal. The spray is better for fine moving parts, so we recommend going with the spray. If you need an alternative to White Lithium Grease an easy solution is with bicycle lubricant.

All we ended up using was a screw driver for the screws, WD-40, some isopropyl, Q-tips, tweezers, the White Lithium Grease, and a vacuum.

While the lubricant soaked in I verified that the vents were cleared and we worked on preparing for reassembly.

Success! The lubricant was the major issue. An inexpensive fan/heater is now running again with basic tools and supplies we already had at the house.

In retrospect we may have preferred using bicycle lubricant for lower viscosity, but we’ll see how this lubricant ages.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did like this post and/or let us know in the comments. My husband and I would love to write up more of our tear down and repair projects.